changing the world one dad at a time

Camp Kesem: A Child’s Friend Through and Beyond a Parent’s Cancer

Camp Kesem to support kids of cancer patients

The following is a guest post from our friend Jim Higley, publisher of Bobblehead Dad.

“What are you going to do when Drew heads off to college?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question in the last two years.

For those of you who don’t know, “Drew” is my youngest. The runt (not really) of the litter. The one who – in concept – was never supposed to grow old and leave. His job in life was predisposed to be my forever baby.

He obviously ignored the memo.

Off to college he goes. In less than 20 days.

“What are you going to do when Drew heads off to college?”

For years, I’ve answered that question the same way I’ve answered all of the unanswered questions in my life: The Universe will tell me what to do.

What exactly is the “Universe?” Well, if you’re spiritual, it’s God. If you’re not into that kind of stuff, then the “Universe” is that greater force that seems to send the right messages and make the right connections and opportunities in life appear.

I’ve been listening to that force for several years now. And it’s served me well.

“What are you going to do when Drew heads off to college?”

Up until a couple months ago, I was still waiting for the Universe to deliver its answer. And now I know.

But before I share the details, a little about what the Universe has taught me about myself over the years:

  • I like stories. Every day stories. Stories about nooks and cranny things. I like those stories because I’ve come to learn that life happens in those moments.
  • I like parenting, fatherhood, children, kids, family … that whole thing. I was blessed with amazing parents. And I have three extraordinary – and sometimes complicated – children myself.
  • I like writing and communicating. Especially when it can make a difference somehow, somewhere, in the world. Or with the guy next door.
  • I hate cancer. And I love everything associated with it. I lost my mom to cancer when I was a kid. Then my dad. Then my brother, Kevin. Then I went through it. A young parent with cancer. Pretty sucky. And life-changing. So cancer. Yeah. Hate it. Love the cause.
  • I love connecting people.
  • I love working with people and companies and organizations that are downright awesome. Game-changers. Big thinkers. I believe the world can be changed. And I need to be associated with those kind of folks/people/causes. It’s fresh air to me.
  • I want to leave the world a better place. Corny – but I am committed to giving my three kids some good content to use when they give my eulogy. Truth is, I want them to be half as proud of me as I am of them.
    That’s what I’ve learned. Thank you, Madam Universe.

And the Universe has certainly delivered to this guy. I have the pleasure of writing, speaking, and talking about things I care about deeply: parenting, children and cancer. And I get to play on some of the biggest, coolest, most awesome platforms in the world.

For that, I am grateful.

But life is big. And I’ve been looking for more. I want my cake and eat it too.

And the Universe delivered.

“What are you going to do when Drew heads off to college?”

Well, I now know. I’m taking on several thousand – and I hope hundreds of thousands someday – new children.

I am pleased and honored to announce my new association with Camp Kesem.

Camp Kesem? If you don’t know it now – you will. It’s the top (I’m bragging, but dads do that) organization in the country supporting children who have parents with cancer. Or have lost a parent to cancer. Funny, isn’t it? I was that kid who lost a parent to cancer. And then I was also that parent with cancer. With three little kids.

The Universe knows me very well.

Camp Kesem provides free summer camp for kids – through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Trust me, children are often the overlooked piece of the puzzle in a parent’s cancer journey. They usually hold things inside. They pretend to be grown-up. But – they often are torn apart inside. And that’s where Camp Kesem comes in. Not just once. But year after year.

This summer – right now as you are reading this – 4,000 children are enjoying the life-changing experience of Camp Kesem.

And it gets better. Way, way better.

It not only helps kids. It’s an incredible leadership opportunity for college students because all of the 62 Camp Kesem camps (in 29 states) are run by volunteer college kids. 2,000 of them – and growing. College students who work year round to plan camp. Recruit staff. Raise money and then – serve as counselors at the camp.

This is the classic “Pay it forward” – on steroids.

And I get to be their Chief Development and Marketing Officer. What the heck is that? It means I get to make sure that all of the partnerships and love and support and help are in place to make sure the magic of Camp Kesem happens. I get to do all the things I love (now would be a good time to refer to bullets above – compliments of the Universe). I get to work with Camp Kesem’s fabulous leadership – including some long-time friends as well as their incredible student leaders and a management team that has already shown me the new definition of passion.

Again, thank you Universe.

“What are you going to do when Drew heads off to college?”

Truthfully, I’m lucky to be able to do many of the things I love: write, talk, share, about things I care about.

And I get to add one new big thing to the mix of life. Hello Camp Kesem.

Get used to that name because I’ll be talking about it often.

Oh, and one other thing: Everyone at Camp Kesem gets a camp name. It doesn’t matter if you’re a camper. A counselor. The camp nurse. Our accountant. Our CEO. Everyone.

And yes. Me.

My camp name is “Pops.”

Life doesn’t get much better than that.


For more information about Camp Kesem, check out their website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook page. And if you have some tissue close by, watch this video:

1 comment for “Camp Kesem: A Child’s Friend Through and Beyond a Parent’s Cancer

  1. Kelli Levey
    October 1, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    As both a wife who lost her husband to cancer – therefore mom to camper Fresh Prince – and as advisor to Camp Kesem Texas A&M, I bid you welcome and say THANK YOU for all I know you will do for this great big wonderful organization.
    As a communicator, I say “Jealous!”

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