Camp Kesem Berkeley

Camp Kesem is a college organization designed to provide kids whose parents have or had cancer with a summer camp experience that gives them a chance to be kids and to allow college students to channel their passion for making a difference.

Day 4 started out unlike the rest: we had breakfast outside and in our pajamas! The PJammin Breakfast was a huge success and everyone had a great time singing, dancing, and eating french toast in our comfy pajamas! Then we moved on to rotations, like cooking & science! We made lava lamps with water, vegetable oil, food coloring, and alka seltzer tablets! At the end of the day the Red Unit left for their teen overnight in the woods, the Blue Unit went on a tractor ride, while the Green, Yellow, and Orange went on a train ride! Afterwards we were treated to hot cocoa just before bed.

Shaggy is the Camp Kesem Program Director for all the chapters in the Northwest. He oversees a total of 10 chapters, Camp Kesem Berkeley being one of them. He came and visited camp on Monday and wrote a guest blog post to share with you all!

After a 2.5 hour drive from North Lake Tahoe, I was stoked to finally arrive at Grizzly Flats on Monday, August 19th! My first stop on camp property was the zip line with Orange and Blue unit, where I was immediately impressed with how encouraging everyone was. Counselors and campers alike tried to help each other face a fear of heights and tackle the massive zip line. That first impression held true throughout my time here, Camp Kesem Berkeley has created such an encouraging environment where campers feel comfortable trying new things and supported as they work through difficult emotions.

One of the new things I enjoyed watching the Yellow unit try out some improv games during drama on Tuesday morning. (There were some serious contenders for the 2023 season of “Whose Line is it Anyway?”) My sides hurt after witnessing the shenanigans of campers as they were pirates hunting treasure in one moment and birdwatchers in the next during the game Props, where they had to come up with quick scenarios based on items they chose out of a bin.

Next, I accompanied Green unit to the go kart track. Most of them were too small to reach the pedals, so counselors drove with them. Those that could reach the pedals never took their foot off the gas! I was especially impressed with how the counselors comforted a girl camper who was upset that she couldn’t reach the pedals - but the next thing you know, she was back in a go kart, this time helping to steer. (Which probably presents a scary mental image for any parent - whether your child is 6 or 16!)

My favorite camp moments are the random and unpredictable ones, such as this query presented by a Blue unit camper: “Can pigeons walk sideways?” (Seriously, if you know the answer, send me a message…I fall asleep thinking about it.) Yellow unit has seized meal time as the perfect time to play Truth or Dare…which turned into Dare…which turned into campers prompting counselors to run around the cafeteria shouting, “The world will be taken over by monkeys! The world will be taken over by monkeys!” At the Tuesday night dance party, I was impressed by one camper’s decision to “sleep” on the stairs while “Party in the USA” blasted over the sound system. Another camper sat on the floor (I’m still unsure if it was an act of indifference or an attempt to be funny) but was quickly surrounded by dancing campers and counselors. The dance party was fueled by so much enthusiasm, that even technical difficulties couldn’t stop everyone from singing and dancing to camp songs. The camp every rallied and made a beat so the campers who learned some break dancing moves with Swipes during a free choice period could show off their moves.

Tomorrow I leave to visit another camp run by UW-Seattle students, but I eagerly look forward to camp next year. I might even drop in on a camper reunion during the year, so hopefully we can meet in person! I’m excited for you to hear all the camp stories from your child’s perspective.

To help keep the camp spirit alive year round, follow me on Twitter @ShaggyCK!


Our Camp Advisor, Montana, with Shaggy (on right)

Tuesday started off like normal, breakfast and rotations. We did super awesome things like go-karts and pool time! We also had our empowerment ceremony, which gives us an opportunity to share what Camp Kesem means to us. We all sat in a big circle and wrote messages on squares of paper, which were displayed that evening in a luminary ceremony. We then put our paint hand print on a banner, went inside to dress up our counselors and ended the night with an awesome dance party!

Monday started with breakfast and rotations, like arts & crafts! Then we had the ridiculously fun Water Olympics!

Week 2 has begun! This week we will be giving a simple breakdown of the daily activities but with lots of photos. Sunday started at drop-off, then we got on the bus to go to camp! After eating lunch we were organized into units, got our cabins, and dove right into activities.

And of course we ended it with a campfire!

Week 1 of Camp Kesem Berkeley has come to an end, and what a magical week it was. From the moment we got on the bus at UC Berkeley’s West Circle to the moment we got dropped off, it was full of magical, inspirational, and happy adventures. A huge thank you to all our counselors, campers, and camper families that participated in Week 1. We hope you were touched by the magic of Kesem! Now it’s time to buckle down and prepare for Week 2!

Day 4 of camp started out different than most other mornings - we had breakfast in our pajamas at the PJammin Breakfast! A mix between breakfast in bed, a picnic, and a concert, we ate French toast while rockin’ out!


Thumbs up for PJammin Breakfast!


A little dancing in the morning helps you wake up!


French toast tastes better when eaten outside.


A camper stops with her breakfast to smile for the camera.

We sang, we danced, we ate breakfast, and we had an awesome time! It was definitely the most fun breakfast EVER!


A camper sings for everyone still enjoying their breakfast.


A Red Unit camper takes a big bite of his breakfast.


Some of the Blue Unit boys pose for a picture


Even the Red Unit loves PJammin Breakfast!

Then we had a full day of activities! We went to the lake and did the zipline too! The lake had a bunch of fun things and the zip line was really high up. They were both really cool and fun!


A camper gets some serious air off “The Blob” at the lake!


Helmets and harnesses - all ready for the zipline!


You zoom right through the trees while on the zipline!


The zipline is totally awesome!

Next we went to dinner where we had ice cream for dessert! There were even 5 different flavors to choose from!


Nurse Ham poses with her ice cream and two Yellow Unit girls.


Eating a double scoop cone can be a little messy!


Toast, Waka, and two Yellow Unit girls smile for the camera.

After dinner the Red Unit left for their overnight, where they’ll spend the night bonding and camping in the woods. Blue Unit got to go on a tractor ride while the Green, Yellow, and Orange units got to go on a train ride!


The Blue Unit heads off for their tractor ride!


These two brave campers sat in the very back of the caboose - they had to ride backwards!

Of course, we finished out the night with… a dance party.


Dance party!

Our third day of camp started with the usual- breakfast and a few activities, like go-karts and sports!


A quick game of ninja between activities.

Then we slowed down the pace and had our empowerment ceremony after lunch. Empowerment is a time for us to share our feelings and what Camp Kesem means to us. Everyone at camp sat in a giant circle and we wrote down things like someone who is important to us, why we love Camp Kesem, or what Camp Kesem means to us. These were later hung up at the luminary ceremony for all of us to look at.


Our empowerment cards strung up for viewing.

That evening after looking at all our empowerment cards, we made a banner with all our hand prints, to remind us that we are never alone, and the magic of Camp Kesem comes from, and is within, all of us.


An array of brightly colored hand prints cover the banner.

There’s only one way to end such an incredible day… dressing your counselors up in the craziest rockstar outfit ever and then having a dance party!


Counselor Splash shows off her cool new look.


Dancing and having fun!

Tuesday was a pretty great day.


Counselor Grizzle and a camper taking a break from all the dancing.

Monday was a great day here at camp! Our second day started off with breakfast and then a few activity rotations, where we got to do things like climb the rock wall or play sports on the field.


Almost to the top of the rock wall!


Counselor Pax and other campers watch their friend go up the rock wall.

After a few rotations we ate lunch to energize us for the most exciting part of the day: Water Olympics!


Water Olympics!

All the units got together to play games that involved lots of water! We even had a giant slip-n-slide!


Some campers went down the slip-n-slide on their stomachs…


Other campers went sitting down!


A camper demonstrates what happens when the music stops while you’re holding the bucket!

It was an absolute blast and almost everyone got completely soaked, counselors and campers alike!


The Green Unit carefully squeezes the sponge into the cup during the relay race.


The Blue Unit is not as careful when squeezing the sponge…


A camper gets completely soaked!


Counselor NJ helps out some campers who both want to get wet.

After cleaning up and drying off, we headed back for dinner and ate pizza!!! And salad, of course. Then we finished up the day at campfire, which included the second installment of the counselor skit, as well as an impromptu dance party (again!)


Some of the Red Unit boys pose for a photo before campfire.


Dance party on the stage!

I’d say Monday was a pretty great day here at Camp Kesem Berkeley.


Peace out!

The camp songs have begun and so has Camp Kesem 2013! The first day of week 1 was full of awesome activities, but here’s a quick recap of the day:

First, we all met on campus to meet each other and get ready to bus to camp. We had fun playing games and meeting new friends, then we said goodbye to our families and got on the bus!


Campers and counselors enjoying a game of “I Love My Neighbor”

After 3 hours on the bus we got to camp! We ate lunch and then met the rest of the campers in our unit (also known as our fellow band members). Then we went with our units to a few rotations, like drama and archery! Bullseye!!!


Taking aim at the target!

Next we ate dinner in the cafeteria. We had a blast and the food was delicious! We even got to choose a fudgesicle or a popsicle after dinner!


Waldo with some campers who are enjoying their post-dinner popsicles.

And to finish out the night, we had our very first campfire! We sang songs and watched the first installment of the counselor skit. We even had an impromptu dance party!


Almost everyone on stage dancing!

The first day was a huge blast, I wonder what the next day of camp has in store?


Trek sits with a camper at the unit reveal ceremony