Stories about breast cancer that can inspire and inform

Blog  |  Newsroom

Beyond the Campfire: How Camp Kesem Empowers Children and Families Facing Breast Cancer 

When we think of the challenges faced by families navigating the world of breast cancer, the experiences of the youngest members often go overlooked. Enter Camp Kesem a unique sanctuary for children touched by the complexities of a parent’s cancer journey. Ashley Fernandez, living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) and mother to an enthusiastic 8-year-old, offers an intimate glimpse into the transformative power of this camp experience. 

Ashley was diagnosed with MBC at 31 years old when her daughter was only 3. “Parenting with MBC or any kind of cancer can be really, really stressful,” Ashley said. Her daughter’s tender age at the time of Ashley’s diagnosis means that childhood memories are intertwined with the challenges and emotions of cancer. 

Camp Kesem emerged as a beacon of hope for the Fernandez family. A national nonprofit organization, Camp Kesem offers a week of sleep-away camp, at no charge, for children aged 6 to 18 whose lives are touched by a parent’s cancer.  

“The reason why Camp Kesem is so important to us is because it allowed her to take a week away from cancer,” Ashley explained. “There was no chemo, there were no responsibilities – nothing. She just got to be a kid and away from home.” 

Ashley’s daughter was 7 when she first attended Camp Kesem, and it was her very first sleep-away camp. Despite the Fernandez family’s initial apprehensions, the experience was profoundly positive.  

“She was able to experience new things, get over new fears and, most importantly, she met kids her age that understood what she was going through,” Ashley said. 

The genuine friendships and self-assuredness Ashley’s daughter cultivated during her time at Camp Kesem serve as a testament to the camp’s mission. “Not only did she leave with new friends and new skills, but she left with such great confidence,” Ashley said. 

Camp Kesem believes in nurturing impactful childhood experiences and helping kids become their best selves. The camp’s mission resonated with Ashley on a deep level, especially when she saw her daughter flourish in such a nurturing environment. “It just took so much pressure off my daughter, and it made my heart happy to see that,” Ashley said. 

The camp offers more than just a reprieve for children; it fosters community for the entire family. After moving from Ohio to North Carolina, Ashley found solace in the continued embrace of the Camp Kesem family. She connected with another mother living with MBC, leading to the launch of their very own local support group.  

“Community means everything,” Ashley emphasized. “Cancer can be scary, but it can also be so beautiful when you find your people.” 

The Fernandez family’s heartwarming experience is a testament to the camp’s profound impact. “I’m so thankful that I’ve been able to find my people, and most importantly, that my daughter feels seen, known and loved,” Ashley said. 

For families standing at the crossroads of considering Camp Kesem, Ashley has a message: “I want to encourage you to try something new.” The camp not only gifted the Fernandez family with unforgettable memories but also ignited a spark in their daughter. “She says she wants to grow up and be a counselor,” Ashley shared, painting a picture of the beautiful cycle of giving back. 

For those interested in exploring Camp Kesem, visit With chapters spread across the U.S., there’s a haven waiting for every family seeking a touch of magic amidst the challenges of breast cancer. 

Susan G. Komen’s MBC Impact Series provides people living with metastatic breast cancer and their loved ones a safe, collaborative space to gather information related to MBC and discover practical resources to help make decisions for improved physical and emotional health. Wellness Wednesdays, presented by the MBC Impact Series, feature educational videos on various lifestyle and wellness topics for those living with metastatic breast cancer. Watch more Wellness Wednesday videos on Komen’s YouTube channel.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.