We wanted to help these children who are feeling abandoned, forgotten, or unloved. We wanted to bring them to a place where they could heal. A place without worry or fear. A place to learn that they matter. We named it Camp Fresh Start. Camp Fresh Start is a sleep over camp with a program designed to meet the needs of these special children.
Each Child is Special
At Camp Fresh Start, no child is ever defined by a number. Our camp ratio is 1.5 counselors to every one child. No child is ever second, unnoticed, or undervalued.
When each child arrives at camp they are amazed to see that their beds have been decorated with personalized pillows or blankets. They each have a duffel bag filled with supplies for camp as well as a swimsuit, towel, and flip flops. Some children may arrive without proper clothing, so we quickly assess what they need and make sure they get it. We want every child to feel confident and prepared for camp!
Each child receives a photo album documenting their week. These children don’t have many pictures of themselves. Somehow those things don’t seem to get moved along with the child as they enter foster care. We want them to look through their albums and read the journaling that their counselors have carefully written on each page and remember that they are important to us.
A Sense of Accomplishment
Every day at camp, children choose from a variety of activities such as woodworking, archery, drama, swimming, rocketry, outdoor survival, and crafts. They have a chance to learn new skills igniting new interests and hobbies, but more importantly leaving them with a sense of accomplishment. Their counselors are right there with them, encouraging and supporting to ensure each child’s success.
Camp Fresh Start is Safe
Camp Fresh Start focuses on a protective family atmosphere. No child is ever left alone with a counselor or another child. They are taught respect for themselves and for others. Children will mirror how they are treated and at camp they learn important personal boundaries because of the strict personal safety rules that we set. How do you teach a child to love and respect others? Love and respect them first.
“When I was eight, at home I was the caregiver to the adults in my family.”
“When I got to go to camp, I got to be a kid. I got to be eight years old again!”
So Many Children to Help
When we started this camp, we offered one week of camp to 32 elementary age children. However, we couldn’t stop there. What happens to those who age out of our camp, but are entering the treacherous middle school years? Now we take up to 52 kids from elementary through middle school and with enough donations and volunteers would love to take even more!
As funds allow, our future plan is to implement a mentoring program, so that counselors and children can continue to strengthen their relationships beyond the camp experience.