kidsApproximately less than one minute into talking with Mariel and Terrance Pridmore, one thing became very clear—they cannot wait to go back to camp. While every kid is usually looking forward to summer vacation and catching up with friends, Camp Kesem stands apart from the crowd for the relief it brings its campers. 

“It’s SO fun” they both agree, bobbing their heads excitedly.

“It just has made me a happier person” Mariel says.

Founded in 2000, Camp Kesem provides children ages six to sixteen the opportunity for a week-long sleep away camp experience in an environment free of the sometimes overwhelming emotional pressures that coping with a parent’s cancer can bring. It is estimated that there are currently over three million children living in the US today who have a parent with cancer. As our GIST community knows all too well, cancer touches the lives of many more people than just the patient. Children are a uniquely vulnerable population in this sense- because they are not sick themselves, they may feel hesitancy or guilt in expressing their own needs, problems or happiness, leading to issues in emotional, social and developmental growth.

Part of Camp Kesem’s success may be the excellently planned, fun-filled days it provides its campers. Each year a theme is chosen for the camp week and all activities are tailored to that theme. “The themes are my favorite part. The counselors tell you where you’re going next and it’s usually a surprise, there’s not even any clocks” says Terrance.

Named for the Hebrew word for magic, Camp Kesem gives kids a chance to just be kids. With a full time national program staff and 41 chapters around the country, Camp Kesem is always retooling and expanding its offerings to bring campers a wide variety of camp activities in the areas of sports, arts, crafts and drama.  Indeed, its success speaks for itself with most campers, including the Pridmores, being repeat visitors year after year and many transitioning to be counselors or opening their own Camp Kesems at the colleges they attend.

“I definitely want to be a counselor at Camp Kesem when I get to college” confirms Mariela, currently a member of the Camp’s Teen Program, “and if they don’t have one at the college I’m at, I’ll start my own.”

For more information on how to get involved in the magic: visit