Camp Kesem

WSVN — Jeannette and her husband Kevin had just started their family adopting two girls when Kevin was diagnosed with cancer.

Jeannette Garcia: "It turned out that he had melanoma cancer."

After trying several different treatments nothing seemed to work.

Jeannette Garcia: "Nothing helped, nothing was able to get rid of that cancer."

Kevin died in 2006 leaving behind his grieving family.

Jeannette Garcia: "My main concern was the girls and how they were going to deal with the death of their father at much an early age."

That's when Jeannette found out about Camp Kesem.

Ana Moas: "Camp Kesem National is the only summer camp available for kids whose parents have had or passed away from cancer."

The local chapter is run by students at the University of Miami. The one week camp near Tampa gives kids ages six through 16 a chance to take a break from the pressures at home.

Ana Moas: "We're just there to help them be kids for a week, get away from the stresses at home and just enjoy their childhood because they've had to grow up extremely fast."

Campers get to enjoy outdoor activities but even more importantly, they get to be around other kids going through similar struggles.

Ana Moas: "So sometimes they feel like they can't really connect on a certain level with their friends and just to be able to have that group of kids who know where they're coming from."

Counselors encourage them to take part in nightly cabin chats.

Stephen Leonard: "Sort of articulate their fears their emotions with a group of kids going through the same thing."

And the best part is they get to be kids.

Stephen Leonard: "Your helping them recapture a childhood they might not otherwise have."

15-year-old Alexis has been going to the camp since her dad died.

Alexis Amodeo: "I loved it. I made some new friends and I got along with everyone."

Her younger sister Erin also looks forward to camp every summer and says the counselors are so supportive.

Erin Amodeo: "They help us get through like when we get sad they cheer us up."

Jeannette says since her daughters started Camp Kesem, both their coping skills and self-esteem have improved.

Jeannette Garcia: "Now five years later I think this is one of the best things I've done for them."

The girls couldn't agree more.

"Alexis Amodeo: "Once you go to this camp it's going to feel like a new home to you."

Another great thing about Camp Kesem, all expenses are paid for the families.


Camp KesemAugust 11th –