Cancer patients' kids get time to themselves

Cancer patients' kids get time to themselves

CHAMPAIGN – Kids can live on a whole new level of stress and fear when Mom or Dad has cancer.

And when a parent is that sick, the children sometimes just don't get the support they need to handle all those complicated emotions.

So here's a chance for those kids to kick back, relax and talk to their peers who understand

Camp Kesem, a free, weeklong camp for children whose parents have cancer – or whose parents have had it in the past – will have 40 openings for kids ages 6 to 13 this summer.

It will be held from Aug. 8-13 at Eastbay Camp in Hudson, and all spaces are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Camp Kesem is organized and run by University of Illinois student volunteers with the guidance of medical and counseling professionals. The students undergo 40 hours of training before the camp week, said Rachel Carlson, a junior advertising major at the UI who is one of the student coordinators.

Private donors foot the entire cost of the camp, she said.

Activities at the camp include sports, drama, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, talent shows and adventures. Each night, campers also get a chance to talk to each other about what's going on at home.

Carlson, who was involved with the first Camp Kesem last summer, said it was "an absolutely magical experience."

"It's a great chance for the kids to get to be themselves for a week without having to deal with all the stresses at home," she added.

Carlson said there is a two-to-one camper to counselor ratio, and a social worker and nurse who spend the week at the camp.

Parents interested in learning more about the camp are invited to a meeting from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Carle Foundation Hospital, Parkview Rooms B, C and D.

Information is also on the camp Web site.

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