She lost her mom to cancer. Now, she's spreading hope to kids.

By Kendall McKee

I was 7 years old. We went to Disney World as a family for Spring Break that year; a week that consisted of water slides, meeting characters, and being introduced to peanut-butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches (I recommend trying one if you haven't).  My biggest memory from that trip wasn't riding a plane for the first time or meeting Cinderella, it was what happened by the benches next to the in-ground water fountain. That was where we got the phone call- where our world got turned upside down. My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer that day. She was only 38 years old.  I honestly don't think I really knew what cancer was when I was 7.  All I knew was that Mommy was sick. She got surgery shortly after the diagnosis, and started chemo and radiation.  My brother, Dad, and I shaved her head bald in our garage. She stayed in bed a lot. My mom wasn't ready to surrender to cancer, so she fought with all her might.  And one day we were blessed enough to hear the words "the cancer is gone." We lived for 10 years thanking God each day that my mom had been given a second chance at life, despite her close call with this awful disease. We finally felt safe. In 2010 my mom went in for a routine mammogram and they found a "suspicious spot."  Our hearts sank...could it really be?   It was Stage 4 breast cancer that had metasticized to all of her bones. They told us we would have 12-18 months with her. We were numb. Mom went through chemo and radiation once again, she changed her nutrition, exercised a lot, but mostly, she prayed. Months went by, then years.  We cherished every moment we had with her, and we NEVER LOST HOPE. February 25, 2013 my mom lost her battle to cancer.  She was my best friend, and I miss her every day.


I was 7 years old. We went to Disney World as a family for Spring Break that year; a week that consisted of water slides, meeting characters, and being introduced to peanut-butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches (I recommend trying one if you haven't).  My biggest memory from that trip wasn't riding a plane for the first time or meeting Cinderella, it was what happened by the benches next to the in-ground water fountain. That was where we got the phone call- where our world got turned upside down.

My mom was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer that day. She was only 38 years old.  I honestly don't think I really knew what cancer was when I was 7.  All I knew was that Mommy was sick.


She got surgery shortly after the diagnosis, and started chemo and radiation.  My brother, Dad, and I shaved her head bald in our garage. She stayed in bed a lot.

My mom wasn't ready to surrender to cancer, so she fought with all her might.  And one day we were blessed enough to hear the words "the cancer is gone."

We lived for 10 years thanking God each day that my mom had been given a second chance at life, despite her close call with this awful disease. We finally felt safe.

In 2010 my mom went in for a routine mammogram and they found a "suspicious spot."  Our hearts sank...could it really be?  

It was Stage 4 breast cancer that had metasticized to all of her bones. They told us we would have 12-18 months with her.

We were numb.

Mom went through chemo and radiation once again, she changed her nutrition, exercised a lot, but mostly, she prayed.

Months went by, then years.  We cherished every moment we had with her, and we NEVER LOST HOPE.

February 25, 2013 my mom lost her battle to cancer.  She was my best friend, and I miss her every day.

So, why did I tell you this story?  I'm glad you asked! This story is, unfortunately, very similar to the stories of 3 million kids in the United States. 3 MILLION! That means 3 million kids need our help.  But more importantly, they need our hope. These kids are often overlooked when we think of all the kids affected by cancer. Just because they don't have the disease themselves doesn't mean they aren't affected...they are! Camp Kesem recognizes and supports this overlooked population of children, ages 6-16.  CK is a nonprofit organization with 64 chapters located at different college campuses across the United States.  I am a member of the Indiana University chapter, which is completely run by college students.  IU’s chapter was established in 2003, and since 2004 has offered a FREE week long summer camp for kids affected by a parent’s cancer.  IU student volunteers have the special opportunity to be these kids’ summer camp counselors. Camp offers kids a vacation, if you will, from their frightening reality at home. They have to grow up so fast because of cancer, and CK gives them a way to JUST BE KIDS again!  These kids need hope, love, and FUN! And that is what CK is all about!!! The week at camp consists of swimming, crafts, outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, and (most importantly) Messy Olympics!  This activity is always a camp favorite, for the campers, that is.  They get the opportunity to coat their counselors in food products including, but not limited to, ketchup, jelly, honey, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, flour, and Cheetos.


So, why did I tell you this story?  I'm glad you asked!

This story is, unfortunately, very similar to the stories of 3 million kids in the United States. 3 MILLION! That means 3 million kids need our help.  But more importantly, they need our hope.

These kids are often overlooked when we think of all the kids affected by cancer. Just because they don't have the disease themselves doesn't mean they aren't affected...they are!

Camp Kesem recognizes and supports this overlooked population of children, ages 6-16.  CK is a nonprofit organization with 64 chapters located at different college campuses across the United States.  I am a member of the Indiana University chapter, which is completely run by college students.  IU’s chapter was established in 2003, and since 2004 has offered a FREE week long summer camp for kids affected by a parent’s cancer.  IU student volunteers have the special opportunity to be these kids’ summer camp counselors. Camp offers kids a vacation, if you will, from their frightening reality at home. They have to grow up so fast because of cancer, and CK gives them a way to JUST BE KIDS again!  These kids need hope, love, and FUN! And that is what CK is all about!!!

The week at camp consists of swimming, crafts, outdoor activities, scavenger hunts, and (most importantly) Messy Olympics!  This activity is always a camp favorite, for the campers, that is.  They get the opportunity to coat their counselors in food products including, but not limited to, ketchup, jelly, honey, chocolate syrup, sprinkles, flour, and Cheetos.

Though these fun activities are an escape from cancer, everyone knows why we are all brought together for the week of camp. The week is ended with an Empowerment Ceremony, which is a time that campers and counselors are welcome to share their stories with cancer. This event gives us a special opportunity to relate to each other through our stories and see how cancer has affected us all in some way.  It’s an amazing thing to see so many children come together and support each other through a childhood they all share. The strength these kids possess is unprecedented, and reminds me daily how important Camp Kesem is. After the week of camp, Kesem is not finished. We spend countless hours throughout the year supporting our campers, bringing meals to their families, fundraising money, and attending big events in the campers’ lives. It’s important to us for our campers and their families to feel supported throughout the year, and stay together as one big Kesem family through the good times and the bad. Now, (here comes the begging part), we can't send all these kids to camp for free without your help! Please, please, PLEASE consider donating for these kids.  YOU can change their lives for the better.  YOU can make the difference. YOU can give them hope. Kendall McKee Camp Kesem Indiana University Coordinator Guest Blogger For more information about the amazing things Camp Kesem is doing and to find a chapter near you, visit us online at: Camp Kesem Nationals http://campkesem.org/ Camp Kesem IU http://campkesem.org/indiana  OR follow these links to see the first-hand magic of Kesem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi5SsQu4B8Q https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-mlKxXyReA


Though these fun activities are an escape from cancer, everyone knows why we are all brought together for the week of camp. The week is ended with an Empowerment Ceremony, which is a time that campers and counselors are welcome to share their stories with cancer. This event gives us a special opportunity to relate to each other through our stories and see how cancer has affected us all in some way.  It’s an amazing thing to see so many children come together and support each other through a childhood they all share. The strength these kids possess is unprecedented, and reminds me daily how important Camp Kesem is.

After the week of camp, Kesem is not finished. We spend countless hours throughout the year supporting our campers, bringing meals to their families, fundraising money, and attending big events in the campers’ lives. It’s important to us for our campers and their families to feel supported throughout the year, and stay together as one big Kesem family through the good times and the bad.

Now, (here comes the begging part), we can't send all these kids to camp for free without your help!

Please, please, PLEASE consider donating for these kids.  YOU can change their lives for the better.  YOU can make the difference.

YOU can give them hope.

Kendall McKee
Camp Kesem Indiana University Coordinator
Guest Blogger


For more information about the amazing things Camp Kesem is doing and to find a chapter near you, visit us online at:
Camp Kesem Nationals http://campkesem.org/
Camp Kesem IU http://campkesem.org/indiana 

OR follow these links to see the first-hand magic of Kesem:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vi5SsQu4B8Q
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-mlKxXyReA