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Pay It Forward: Camp Kesem


Camp Kesem is a cancer retreat program for kids, but with a twist. You often hear of organizations like this for the victims, but this is a bit different. Camp Kesem is a national nonprofit that provides a week-long retreat for kids with parents who have cancer, to be with other kids who are going through the same thing.

"In 2008, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. For our family, this was devistating. It was huge. As it is with every family," said Jamie "Bear" Leonard from Camp Kesem Stony Brook.

"If there's one thing we really need, it's to be able to know that we're not alone. That everyone has had a rough time, and especially here, our rough time has been cancer," said a young camper.

Camp Kesem was founded in 2000. It now has more than 70 chapters in 34 states. Just three years ago, Eric Hendrickson and about 15 other Brigham Young University Idaho students brought a chapter to Idaho.

"Camp Kesem was an opportunity for me to volunteer, give my time, and also be something that I was kind of passionate about," said Hendrickson.

The college student volunteers acts camp counselors, coordinators, nurses and more. The camp is for kids ages 6 to 16. There are about 20 from Eastern Idaho already signed-up for the camp this summer. Hendrickson said that number will grow. It's free for the kids to attend, but it costs a lot of money to put it on.

Time to "Pay It Forward."

"The rewarding part? When we first started, it was a lot of work to bring in Camp Kesem," said Hendrickson.

"Hi Eric, how are you?" said Kory Carling as he opened the door and walked into the room.

"Good. How are you?" asked Hendrickson.

"Good. I'm Kory with Mountain America Credit Union."

"Sweet," said Hendrickson.

"We've heard a lot about your organization and what you've been able to do in the safe environment you've created for these children that we're here today to help you," said Carling.

"Really?" said Hendrickson.

"I've brought with me today, to help pay it forward, $500 cash," said Carling.

"Sweet!" said Hendrickson.

"That we want to donate to your organization so you can continue to touch the lives of these children and provide a safe environment for them to network in," said Carling.

"Thank you so much! That's so awesome! Man!" said Hendrickson.

"There you go," said Carling.

"That will help so much. Thank you so much," said Hendrickson.

"You betcha. Great cause and great organization," said Carling.

"Man, thank you so much. That's so awesome!" said Hendrickson.

"Our pleasure," said Carling.

"Camp Kesem is more than just a camp. It's really a lifestyle to live by," said a young camper.

"How beautiful is that? We're just talking about a week. One week," said another.

Henrickson said it cost $250 per camper, so the $500 will make it possible for two more campers to attend. Idaho's local camp is the week of Aug. 14 in Ketchum. If you or someone you know could benefit from this camp, the best way to find it is to search on Facebook for Camp Kesem Teton Valley and send them a message.

"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to Eyewitness News anchor Todd Kunz at

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Eyewitness News 3, Local News 8 and Fox 5.


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