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Camp Kesem helping kids affected by cancer

Camp Kesem supports children through and beyond their parents' cancer battles.

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – Cancer is tough for anyone at any age to deal with.

This week, at Camp Bethel in Botetourt County, Virginia Commonwealth University is hosting a free summer camp for more than 50 kids in need of a pick-me-up.

The games are going strong at Camp Kesem. But behind the smiles and shouts and laughter, these kids are dealing with something much heavier.

Camp Kesem supports children through and beyond their parent's cancer battles.

"Our goal is to try to give kids the childhood that they never really had because they were forced to grow up so quickly to deal with these huge adult-sized problems," said Sam Dixon, camp counselor. 

Sam may be a camp counselor, but he knows how cancer hurts.

"I was about 17 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Dixon. 

The costs of cancer are harder to find here at Camp Kesem. The campers get creative at arts and crafts, they show off a little competitive edge on the gym court, and they do their best to chase a little of the sadness away.

"It's really tough to deal with the thought that at one point faster than others your parent could die. It's scary to see this thing inside your parent is killing them," said 12-year-old camper Victoria Belotti.

This is Victoria's fifth year at Camp Kesem, five years of finding comfort with other campers and counselors.

"Six years ago, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer. We felt really alone and shut out because there's no one else you can talk to," said Belotti. 

The campers range in age from 6 to 16. They've all had different experiences with cancer, different family members affected. But they can agree on one thing, this camp is exactly what they needed.

"This camp basically just pulls everybody that is the exact same together so you're completely comfortable with expressing yourself and sharing your emotions, sharing your inner thoughts so that you feel relaxed," said 16-year-old camper Joseph Taylor. 

The campers will say their goodbyes at the end of the week and leave with a reminder that they are not alone.