New Camp Kesem at Mississippi State University to support children with a parent impacted by cancer

Contact: Allison Matthews

Madelyn Grace Slaten, an MSU freshman psychology major from Savannah, Tennessee, and a former Camp Kesem participant, encourages visitors at an information table in Colvard Student Union to vote for MSU during Camp Kesem’s recent “Chapter Expansion Campaign.” MSU will host a new chapter of Camp Kesem this fall with the first summer camp to be offered in 2020. (Photo submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A national network of college student leaders who support children impacted by a parent’s cancer is announcing that Mississippi State will host a new chapter of Camp Kesem this fall.

Founded at Stanford University in 2000, Camp Kesem is the flagship program of Los Angeles-based Kesem. Over 5,000 college students at more than 110 chapters nationwide work with children ages 6 to 18 through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Camps include innovative and fun-filled programs and are an avenue for children to connect with understanding peers, as well as build confidence and communication skills.

Camp Kesem logo -- caterpillar in blue and green

“We are delighted to be home to a Camp Kesem chapter,” said MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Young Hyatt. “Not only does this create a new opportunity for our students to be involved, it also is a meaningful way for our students to make a difference in the lives of some very special children.”

As part of Camp Kesem’s recent “Chapter Expansion Campaign,” students, faculty, staff and the general public voted among 12 finalists to select new chapter locations. When voting closed Feb. 1, MSU was leading the results in first place with more than 7,100 votes. In addition to Mississippi State, the organization is announcing that Auburn, Denison, Miami and Montana State universities also will house new chapters for the camp.

In 2018, Kesem served nearly 9,000 campers at no cost to their families. The free, weeklong summer camps are funded by individual donations and corporate support. Camp Kesem at Mississippi State University will offer its first camp during the summer of 2020.

Madelyn Grace Slaten, an MSU freshman psychology major from Savannah, Tennessee, and a former Kesem camper, first advocated for MSU to have a chapter of the organization that supported her after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Slaten was 10 years old.

“It has given me a place where I can go and be just the same as anyone else, and I can talk about anything I need to and feel like I’m not alone,” Slaten said.

When Slaten and some supportive MSU professors posted about this need on an MSU faculty and staff Facebook page, Chris and Susan Brooks both responded. Chris, associate professor of biological sciences, and Susan, business manager for MSU’s Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and chair of MSU’s Staff Council, both have been impacted recently by cancer. Their son Justin Crenshaw, an MSU housing facilities staff member who also is a full-time interdisciplinary studies student, also wanted to support the effort to gain an MSU Camp Kesem chapter since he experienced having a sibling with childhood cancer years ago.

The family helped Slaten advance the MSU campaign for a new chapter, with Susan coordinating communication. She said MSU gaining a Camp Kesem chapter demonstrates the university’s culture of serving others.

 “The demand for more Camp Kesem chapters nationally is phenomenal,” Brooks said. “With more than 5 million children in the U.S. impacted by a parent’s cancer, Kesem needs to continue expanding to support more children. We are thrilled that MSU students will have the opportunity to serve through this very worthwhile organization to help children in need of special support.”

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Brooks also may be contacted at 662-325-0731 or

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 12:00 pm