Did you know that there are over 3 million kids affected by a parent’s cancer? The support is there for the grown-ups; but the special emotional needs of children of adult cancer patients have been overlooked. Simply put: 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. The organizations I found recognize and embrace the often-overlooked population of children affected by parent’s cancer.
- Camp Kesem: Since 2000, Camp Kesem – a college-student-run summer camp for kids whose parents have (or had cancer) – has provided plenty of laughs and lots of emotional but non-therapeutic support. Camp Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, provides a FREE week of sleep-away fun and friendships forged in a safe, compassionate and cancer-aware environment for kids ages 6-16. Word quickly spread and the Stanford student leaders encouraged their friends at colleges across the country to replicate Camp Kesem in their communities. Camp Kesem brings magic to families coping with cancer from coast to coast. Camp Kesem engages in camp activities like sports, arts and crafts, and drama to give campers a fun-filled week. Campers also participate in “Cabin Chats” with fellow campers and counselors, giving children the chance to share their experiences with each other.
- Family Lives On: The umbrella organization for Mommy’s Light and Daddy’s Light brings joy and comfort to grieving children, teens and their families by helping them continue cherished traditions. Originally started by Mary Murphy for her son, Bryan in 1997, Mary felt that repeating an activity they had enjoyed together for many years would comfort and support Bryan during his grieving process. Together they came up with the idea of making butter cookies at Christmastime. I knew Mary, and boy, oh boy, were her cookies delicious. Mary died two and a half months after she established her foundation, but has left an enormous impact on others. The foundation has expanded and includes free traditional fulfillment services to eligible children and teens; and the development and distribution of bereavement education and outreach materials targeting grieving children and the adults who are likely to interact with them.