Last year my husband and I were able to experience a camp that changed our lives forever.
My grandma’s church puts on a camp called Royal Family Kids Camp. It is a national organization for children who need to “create positive memories.” The children are referred through any number of avenues, foster parents, school staff, children services, etc. These kids have more life experience in their left foot than I have in my whole life. They have been physically, sexually and/or mentally abused or neglected. The entire goal of the week is to ensure these kids go home with something worthwhile, even if it is just memories.
My week consisted of first meeting my camper, a 9 year old whose file stated she had the mentality of a 7 year old. She was in her fourth foster home of the year, the most recent one she was switched to two weeks before camp. She was used to lying, cheating and stealing her way through life. Tantrums were of the norm and she gave me many displays of this.
There were many activities planned for the week, including fishing, swimming, making crafts, games, singing around a campfire, riding a wagon, singing songs and just having fun. In between all of the fun things we did, my camper decided she hated me a few times, but when moving onto the next activity would ask to hold my hand. She would often scream at her cabin mate, but would then want to be her best friend. She displayed signs of her abuse, but underneath everything I could see she was just a small, scared, little girl. It begins to be heartbreaking when I really stop and think about it. Some people hear about her behavior and just label her a “brat.” But now that I have spent a week with kids who can be called out-of-control, I see there is more than just what is on the surface. These kids were desperate for real love. They tested limits and patience to see our reactions, were we just going to hit them like they have been before? Instead we showed love.
At the end of the week, many tears were shed. For both saying goodbye and realizing some of the kids would be going back to not very good situations.
This camp is hard to tell people about using words, but I do my best now when I can. I have been given the honor of helping to raise funds for camp this year and have the opportunity to go to different organizations and share my experience. It can be difficult, but it is so worthwhile, even when we’re just raising awareness about this sensitive topic.
My husband and I have decided to join the effort in another way. We are in the process of becoming certified to do foster care. We had discussed adoption and foster care before we were married last spring, but after camp and two heartbreaking miscarriages, we knew we were called to this. Please keep camp and the kids in your prayers!
I encourage anyone who has taken the time to read to find a way to get involved to help kids in your own community. It sounds so cliche, but they really are the future and desperately need good influences on their lives! There are so many organizations out there fighting for the same type of cause in your local community. We are helping kids in Marion, Ohio-impacting this town. You can help kids wherever you are too.