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When a parent has cancer, their children often find that the world has turned upside down. Spending time with other children facing the same issues can make a life-changing impact.

Camp Kesem, a nationwide program, crafts a camp experience specifically catered to the children of cancer patients. Bon Secours St. Francis Health System provided a donation to begin a new Camp Kesem chapter at Clemson University to be held Aug. 12 – 17. Clemson students work all year to plan and fundraise to hold the camp and they are trained to serve as volunteers and camp counselors. The camp is provided free of charge to children.

Robert Siegel, a physician with St. Francis Cancer Center, said the Bon Secours Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Care program treats patients ages 15 – 40. Many are facing cancer as they are also in the busy season of parenting children.

“The mental health of their children is critical to them,” he said. 

Siegel said there was nothing like the Camp Kesem program in South Carolina.

“It’s an opportunity for kids going through the same thing to spend time together,” he said.

Siegel credits Clemson University students with spearheading the program.

“There’s a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, love and care,” he said. “It’s been inspiring.”

Parents need not be currently undergoing treatment for their child to apply. Application is open to any children in the Upstate ages 6 – 18 who have lost a parent to cancer, have a parent undergoing cancer treatment, or whose parent is a cancer survivor.

“It’s meant to be for any child who can benefit,” Siegel said. “I think it’s a huge relief for some of these parents to be able to send their kids.”

Siegel said parents can feel guilty when their focus is required to be on their own health and treatment, rather than on their children. This unique opportunity can benefit the entire family, allowing parents to give their children an experience they otherwise would not have had.

“The kids are affected as a result,” he said. “It’s a gift to the children from the camp, but from the parents as well.”

Camp Kesem is free and will take place Aug. 12 – 17. Details and registration are available at http://campkesem.org/clemson.

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