Partners Camp JORI and Camp Kesem offer summer fun to RI kids impacted by cancer


SOUTH KINGSTOWN –  Camp JORI concluded another successful summer on Aug. 12. But JORI’s camping season did not end there. Camp JORI joined forces with Brown University and Camp Kesem to serve as the host site for a one-week overnight camping experience filled with fun and laughter for kids with a parent affected by cancer.

Millions of children in the U.S. live with a parent who has cancer. With statistics from the Rhode Island Department of Health listing cancer as the second leading cause of death in the state, chances are thousands of those children live right here in the Ocean State.

Camp Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem operates over 100 free summer camps in 40 states for children ages 6 to 18 who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. The Brown University chapter was founded in 2016 and supports children in the Northeast by providing a week-long summer camp experience and year-long peer support.

Camp Kesem at Brown University is operated by more than 30 student volunteers and served 40 campers at Camp JORI in Wakefield. With Camp JORI’s 72-acre site located on Worden’s Pond, the largest lake in Rhode Island, the children were surrounded by nature and treated to a seemingly neverending escape from the stresses and unexpected interruptions of having a parent with cancer to the supported and carefree life every child deserves.

After spending the week observing the Camp Kesem experience, Ricky Kodner, director of Camp JORI for two summers who has years of experience as a director of another camp in the midwest, noted that the Camp Kesem format was different from a typical summer camp. Although similar in many respects to Camp JORI’s mission of providing children with a quality overnight camping experience in a safe and supportive setting, Kodner notes that experience was provided from a different perspective than he was accustomed to.

“The approach of the staff and counselors yielded a much more hands-on and attentive type of feel to the camp. From the camper-to-counselor ratio to the types of activities that they scheduled, the students from Brown University were patient, caring and worked extremely well with campers who are going through some pretty rough stuff at home.”

This camping experience and Kesem’s year-long programs have a lasting impact on children by providing them a peer-support network that understands their unique needs, builds confidence and strengthens their communication skills. In 2017, Camp Kesem served over 7,200 children coast-to-coast, all funded by generous donations from individuals and corporate support.

The Brown-Kesem counselors were impressive and obviously well-trained for their unique role. Kodner states he “would be proud and happy to work with them again” noting “the college students from Brown University who ran Camp Kesem did an outstanding job with their campers. Additionally, they were extremely respectful of our property and left it in as good a condition as they found it. We seemed to have a seamless meshing of their staff and ours as they followed all of the rules and instructions that were given to them by our lifeguards and ropes course personnel.”

 Submitted by Camp Kesem and Camp JORI

Camp, JORI