Camp Kesem helping kids who've had a parent die of cancer heal

9-year-old Ian Judd has great memories of his dad Mark. "He was my coach in baseball, basketball and he would help me in my sports," Ian said.

When Mark died of cancer last year, it was a harsh reality for a boy who learned some very grown up lessons as a child. "He had two masses of cancer, one on his pancreas and one on his liver," Ian said. "It was just hard to see him the way he was."

Ian's mom, Amy Tribbett, said her son was always there for Mark. "He'd go visit Mark in the ICU, sit there by his bedside and hold his hand."

Shortly after Mark's death, Amy found out about Camp Kesem. It's a camp for kids who have or had a parent with cancer, and according to Amy, it helped Ian smile again. "It's ok to have fun and to still be a kid and still do kid things, while at the same time learning how to cope with your grief," she said.

Ian continued, "I feel happy about it, because I get to be with other kids that have been through what I've been through."

The word kesem means magic in Hebrew. There are now 23 Camp Kesems across the country bringing magic to kids who have been through so much. All of these programs are free for the participants.

Co-Chair for Camp Kesem, Kelly Fallon, describes working at the camp as being "... one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career."

Operated by students at Notre Dame, the camp expenses are covered by fundraisers and corporate grants, in addition to the college students, there's a trained therapist on staff.

Fallon said, "It's just an extra support system for the kids if they want to talk to someone a little bit more."

A counselor at the camp, Kelly Waclawik said, "Our new campers that come at the beginning of the week can't wait to come back next summer. They love it."

Ian is going back this year to hold on to the memories. "They told me it's ok to cry," Ian said, "... and always remember." Remembering the good times between father and son.


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