What is Camp Kesem Stanford?
Camp Kesem is a week-long overnight camp and year-round community for children aged 6-16 who have a parent who is currently suffering from, in remission from, or has died of cancer. These children are undergoing extreme hardship, but are often overlooked and underserved. Camp Kesem provides these children with the unique opportunity to build friendships and gain strength from peers facing similar challenges, in addition to enjoying a week of fun made especially for them. Despite the underlying hardship that brings our campers to Kesem, a typical week at camp consists of arts and crafts, sports, talent shows, s'mores, and endless other fun. In short, we are not a grief camp.
What is the week of camp like as a counselor?
Words cannot accurately describe the magic that happens at camp, but we can give you a general rundown. As a counselor, you will work with kids for the entire week---starting on Monday morning during camper drop-off and ending the following Sunday when we return to campus. Each day, campers (and their counselors) rotate through different stations including arts and crafts, adventure-nature, and swimming to name a few. After dinner each night, there is a different evening programming activity that all counselors and campers attend together. Each year at camp, Wednesday night is dedicated to Roots, an all-camp event designed to give campers and counselors the opportunity to reflect and remember their parent(s) who has suffered from cancer. In this safe and supportive space we foster a feeling of community that sets a powerful tone for the week. Want to learn more? Watch our video:
Can I apply if one of my own parents has not been affected by cancer?
Absolutely. Many of our counselors have not been personally touched by a parent's cancer and our campers understand this. While counselors may not be able to understand exactly how their campers feel, they can still provide unwavering support and love during the week of camp.
What is the pay?
Camp Kesem is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All counselors volunteer their time at camp for no monetary compensation. Food and lodging are provided at no cost.
Where would I live?
Counselors live in gender-segregated cabins with their campers. This means you will be living with 7-8 campers and 3 other counselors but don't fret---these close quarters make for memorable cabin chats each evening where counselors and campers reflect on the day and connect. All cabins have shared bathrooms nearby.
Where does camp take place?
Tucked away in the woods, our campsite is located an hour off campus in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains. Yes, this means you should bring bug spray!
What is food like at camp?
The YMCA provide us with 3 meals a day. Meals are served buffet style and there are always plenty of different options for all dietary needs. Mealtimes offer an incredible opportunity for staffers to socialize with guests. Guests love getting to know staffers and staffers have the opportunity to make valuable alumni connections.
Would I have to work the whole summer?
Nope. Camp Kesem is only a week-long summer camp that happens the first week after graduation, June 17-25 (including debrief). This means you can be a counselor and also do an internship in the same summer!
What is counselor retreat like?
All counselors must attend a mandatory retreat February 15-17 of Winter Quarter. In addition, OLP counselors must attend an OLP backpacking-specific weekend retreat. Throughout Winter and Spring Quarters, we will provide other on-campus trainings to adequately prepare our counselors for the week of camp!
How does the application process work?
Information about the application process can be found here.
Who is eligible to apply?
To be eligible to volunteer at Camp Kesem Stanford, you must be on campus as a registered student the two quarters before Camp (Winter and Spring). International students without U.S. citizenship are welcome and encouraged to apply, too!
I applied last year and didn't get in. Is it worth applying again?
Yes! Like many things at Stanford, our application process is competitive. However, many successful counselors were denied or wait-listed the first time they applied.
What qualities do you look for in Camp Kesem counselors?
As cliche as it sounds, we have no "ideal" counselor that we're looking for. People of any ages, personalities, majors, racial and ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, and nationalities can join our community and help us make camp better than ever before. The unique contributions of each individual counselor help define the magic that is Camp Kesem so as long as you are hardworking, passionate and excited to contribute, you can thrive at Camp Kesem.
Do you still have a burning question that has not been answered?
Submit any other questions in the form below and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.