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MIT student blogger Melis A. '08

MIT students launch Camp Kesem by Melis A. '08

Camp Kesem is a five-day overnight summer camp for children whose parents have had cancer.

Summer is well under way, and no child’s vacation is complete without camp. Toasting marshmallows over a campfire, playing capture the flag, doing arts and crafts, swimming in a lake- summer camp gives kids an opportunity to just have fun. Students at MIT have launched Camp Kesem, or Camp “Magic.” Camp Kesem is a five-day overnight summer camp for children who have a parent who has died from cancer, is currently in treatment for cancer, or is in remission from cancer.

Camp Kesem began at Stanford University in 2000 as a project of Hillel at Stanford; since then, it has expanded to 22 campuses in 14 states. Camp Kesem at MIT, founded by Caroline Huang and Vivian Tang, works under the supervision of Camp Kesem National. The program is open to all children ages 6-13 in the Boston area. I will be one of many counselors who will supervise campers in August.

“Kids with parents who are cancer patients have their lives turned upside down,” says Dr. Michael Amylon, a pediatric oncologist at Stanford Hospital and member of Camp Kesem-Stanford’s Advisory Committee. “Camp Kesem will provide…a safe place to be kids again and have fun, a network of other kids in the same boat with whom to share thoughts and feelings, and a community of caring adults to provide needed attention and to boost their self esteem,” he adds.

I am so excited to be a part of this new program at MIT. For first-year camps like ours, the factor that limits the number of campers is unfortunately money. I have donated $1,250 that I received as part of an award from L’Oreal, but our goal is to raise $10,000 and we have a long way to go. If you believe in magic, or at least the pure joy that kids experience at camp, please consider donating at Every dollar goes towards a deserving child! The online donation site, Kintera, has a feature called 3-and-Me: the basic idea is that for every $1,000 raised, we can send one counselor and three kids to camp. The remainder of the money we raise is used to cover counselor training, equipment rental, transportation, and all camp-related expenses. Overall, we are required to fund-raise upwards of $20,000 in order to provide Camp Kesem to families free of charge.

For more information, please contact Caroline Huang.

8 responses to “MIT students launch Camp Kesem”

  1. a '11 says:

    wow melis, you donated 1.25k of your award. you are amazing. and this is an amazing project. i wish you best of luck in finding sponsors.

  2. Melis says:

    Thanks! Actually, through the Glamour competition I won two awards, one of which was the “Sprit of Giving” award ($2,500 that I could donate to the charity of my choice.) I split it between Camp Kesem and Shriners Burn Hospital.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It has been remarked that undergraduates who flourish at a place like MIT are a rare breed. I am reminded of that every day that I work there. I’m happy to contribute to such a worthy cause and hope others will too.

  4. GK says:


    This program is awesome. Just a suggestion.. to reach a wider audience to try and get donations, maybe you could try and propose a graphic/spotlight for the MIT homepage?

  5. Hawkins '12 says:

    What a worthy cause! Money well spent.

  6. Wings '11 says:

    The camp sounds like an amazing idea! How can I get involved next year? Can freshman volunteer? I did community service all throughout high school, and I definitely want to continue that throughout college (that, and cancer is a personal issue as well due to its effect on my family).

  7. Hawkins '12 says:

    If you’re interested in contributing your computer resources to help fight Cancer, AIDS, AD, Muscular Distrophy, and other diseases, check out the WorldCommunityGrid:

    There is an MIT team! =)

  8. Christina says:

    YAY! So excited smile