By Kathy Walsh
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – When a parent has cancer, it can rock a child’s world. Children often live in fear of losing their mother or father. But there is a camp in Colorado that gives those kids a break.
It is called Camp Kesem and is run by student volunteers from the University of Colorado in Boulder. The idea is to let kids, touched by a parent’s cancer, be kids again.
“Scared, sad, afraid that he was going to die,” Chase Baum said.
That is how Chase of Longmont says he felt when he learned his father, Bryan, had kidney cancer.
Both Chase and sister, Brooklynn, have often imagined the worst. In 2010, their father had his diseased kidney removed. In 2013, the cancer was back.
“It had gone Stage 4,” Bryan told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. “I had about a 5 to 15 percent chance of survival.”
An experimental immune therapy has been helping Bryan beat the odds.
“They say that I have no evidence of disease,” he explained.
But his kids are still scared.
“Sometimes I just worry,” said 10-year-old Brooklynn.
“Because, I mean, it could come back at any time,” said 13-year-old Chase.
So, the Baums are looking forward to a one week getaway this June to Camp Kesem.
“It’s amazing,” said Brooklynn.
“It just kind of unites a bunch of people that may feel alone,” added Chase.
Camp Kesem is just for kids who have been affected by a parent’s cancer. It is free and run by students from CU.
“We give them a week where they can just be a kid again and not have to worry about what’s happening,” explained Devin Kelly, CU senior marketing major and Camp Kesem Coordinator.
At camp, Chase is Robyn. Brooklynn is Sparkle. Both can escape.
“You don’t have to stay inside the sad thoughts you have about your parent’s cancer,” explained Brooklynn. “It just gets better every year.”
A week at Camp Kesem can’t cure cancer, but it can build a lasting community of kids connected by hardship and sharing comfort and encouragement.
There are Camp Kesem chapters in 38 states. Kesem means “magic” in Hebrew, but it takes money to run the nonprofit. The annual fundraiser called Make the Magic is scheduled for April 1 at Hudson Gardens.