Free Camp for Families Battling Cancer

By Mallory Lane

Published 04/16 2014 05:47PM

Updated 04/16 2014 06:09PM

PENN STATE, UNIVERSITY PARK - There's a new camp in Central PA, helping kids whose parents are going through cancer.

It's called Camp Kesem Central PA. It's a national network of free summer camps and year-round meetings for kids, ages 6-16 who have a parent affected by cancer.

There are over 2,500 kids across the country who participate in the camp each summer and this year, it's coming to our region.

Brett Neely is no stranger to cancer.

"When I was a kid, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and he passed away. When I was in high school, my mom had breast cancer," Neely, an adviser for Camp Kesem Central PA, said.

He thinks having a support group is essential and something he wishes he had. That's why he's getting involved with Camp Kesem Central PA.

"It helps them learn that they're really not alone," Neely said. "You realize there are people who are just like you and have a similar story to you."

Camp Kesem is free and it's hosted by college students for five days in the summer.

"A lot of kids are afraid to talk about their parents cancer because they don't understand it," Andrew Tyson, Co-Director for Camp Kesem Central PA, said.

Tyson doesn't have a personal connection with cancer, but said when he heard stories from those who went through it, he knew Penn State would be a perfect match.

"The biggest thing at Penn State is THON, so we have a lot of experience with charities that are against cancer," Tyson said. "They go to this camp and they connect with these people and come back a completely different person because they understand what's going on, they're not afraid of it anymore."

"When a child finds out about a parent's cancer, they're really forced to go through a lot of adult things," Parth Patel, Co-Director for Camp Kesem Central PA, said. "This is a week for them to have fun, get away and also a week for the parents to have a week to themselves to focus on their needs."

Patel calls Camp Kesem a home away from home and the start to a life time of support.

"I think the biggest thing is it's more than just five days of camp. The five days is just for the kids to meet," Patel said. "Throughout the year, we do a lot of stuff. We get together, have reunions, make sure it's a yearlong support group and not just five days of camp."

The camp will be held from August 16-21 at Camp Kweebec. Busing will be provided for free from State College.

Visit the Camp Kesem Central PA website, their Facebook or Twitter pages for more information.

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