Camp Kesem comes to Toledo

by Karen ZiCkes

Camp Kesem: Where Kids Can Be Kids
“Kesem” means ‘magic’ in Hebrew. It was late 2012 and my children were ages 6, 9, and 12 when their father had just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Our family could never have imagined what we would go through in the coming months, and sadly, there was virtually no support for children who had a parent battling cancer.
Thankfully a cancer survivor told us about Camp Kesem (CK). Her son had attended the camp through the chapter at University of Michigan. Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Not only do the student leaders at the prospective universities act as the counselors and organizers of the one week of summer camp held at area campgrounds, but they also fund raise year-round to send each child to camp at no cost to the families.
The camps are for children ages 6-16 and they are what you would expect from any summer camp; with one huge exception. At this camp, the campers are not different from everyone else. Here, they find comfort in knowing that all those campers with them know exactly what they are going through at home, because they are going through it too. And in some situations, like ours, children connect with other children who have lost their parent to cancer. ‘Magic’ happens at Camp Kesem.

University of Toledo to start a chapter
Because the University of Michigan camp fills up quickly, my children ended up attending Camp Kesem through the University of Notre Dame. Camp counselors also support the campers who live locally throughout the year by attending major events in the children’s lives, or seeing them at fund raisers etc. However, living two hours from ND, my children only saw the camp counselors and fellow campers a couple times a year. Still a blessing, but not the most optimal.
Passionate about CK, my daughter Morgan, now a sophomore at UT, as well as a couple other UT students who have attended Camp Kesem through other universities, completed a lengthy application process to bring a chapter to Toledo. Upon being selected as a finalist, The University of Toledo took part in a week-long online voting campaign with other colleges and universities across the country. They finished in the Top Five and will be starting a Camp Kesem at UT. Kesem recently turned 20, and UT will be one of over 100 colleges and universities in 44 states with a Camp Kesem chapter; helping nearly 9,000 children annually.
Toledo’s first week of camp will be in the summer of 2021. To find out more information about Camp Kesem log onto Those interested in donating to the new chapter at The University of Toledo can email Morgan Zickes at to find out how they can help.

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