Field Museum Family Night 2014

Rachel is known by her friends at Camp Kesem as 'Laffy Taffy'.

1.7 million cancer cases are recorded each year, with over 3 million kids affected by a parent’s cancer. I know of two families who’ve lost battles to cancer leaving small children behind.

Many children are impacted differently when they lose a parent and when it’s to cancer some aren’t sure how to handle it. Watching this video will surly bring a tear to a parents eye, and awareness will help other children in need…

“My daughter started attending camp when she was seven, I wish I had known about it when my sons were younger just after losing their father, Brian,” says Barbara Simmons, a mother of three who says her children all handled the loss of their father differently. But unlike her school aged boys, her daughter Rachel was only 1 at the time. “When she started kindergarten she told someone in her class that her dad died and someone laughed, but it’s because the kids didn’t know how to react, parents didn’t know…they assumed that we were divorced. They jumped to that conclusion.” Ms. Simmons says her daughter stopped talking about her father.

Until they found out about Camp Kesem – a college student run summer camp for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. The one-week sleep away camps are a chance for kids 6-16 to have a fun-filled week and just be kids.

Everything they do at Camp Kesem focuses on the goal of giving campers the most fun week possible, while providing the extra support and attention they need. “Once Rachel went to camp she was able to talk about her father again,” says Ms. Simmons, adding that when Rachel goes to camp she is not called Rachel, but by her camp name ‘Laffy Taffy,’ and says that the camp activities are just like any other fun summer camp but she has extra reassurance knowing that all the kids have been impacted by the loss of a parent.

“Since 2000, Camp Kesem has given children affected by a parent’s cancer the opportunity to just be kids,” says Camp Kesem Marketing Manager Mai-lan Pham, who’s gearing up to launch registration for the biggest fundraiser of the year: The 2ndAnnual Field Muesum of Chicago Family Night on Saturday, March 8, 2014, from 6-9 p.m.

“Younger guests will enjoy adventures that are safely tucked away in the museum, including scavenger hunts, arts & crafts, camp songs, games and more while parents sit down for dinner and learn about the impact of Camp Kesem and bid on live and silent auction items,” details Ms. Pham.

“We first learned about the camp from Imerman Angels, and thanks to fundraisers like the Family Night at the museum no child pays to attend the summer camp,” says Ms. Simmons, who also notes that the camp has had a positive impact on Rachel. “After her first time going to camp, I asked her if she talked about her father a lot and she said no. During the day they participate in normal camp activities, but what’s different is that all the kids who go are in the same situation”

Ms. Simmons says that her daughter does talk about her father when they have cabin chat, and one evening during camp the kids are encouraged to share their story if they wish. But Camp Kesem is really all about having fun and being with other kids who have experienced having a parent with cancer.

“The uniqueness about our family is that my mother died of cancer when I was very young so I grew up in a single parent household. Now we’re going through the same thing,” says Ms. Simmons, who has also found comfort in meeting other parents whose children attend the camp. “I find myself arriving early for drop off and pick up to catch up with some of the parents I’ve met through Camp Kesem.”

Tickets available for public purchase on January 3, 2014 by clicking here.

As pointed out in Jordi’s story, kids are often left to deal with these personal tragedies on their own; and if parents themselves are struggling with illness, their sons and daughters frequently miss the simple joys of childhood. And when I see my own friends children learning about death then knowing they could benefit from something like Camp Kesem, I hope readers of this blog will take the time to learn more about the camp, attend the Family Night at the Museum or click here to find out about some of the wish list items, volunteer or just get involved.

Christine Bachman

About Christine Bachman

Christine Bachman is founder and president of Plan It PR, a public relations and marketing firm. The mother of five shares tips and survival stories in “Play Dates and Power Lunches.” Ms. Bachman started working public relations after a long career in broadcast journalism, which included work as a television anchor, reporter and producer.