I spent the latter part of the winter and most of the spring focusing on recruitment for Camp to Belong River Valley, now known as Rooted Kinections, Inc., a nonprofit sleep away camp dedicated to reuniting siblings separated by foster care, kinship homes and adoption. The camp helps kids see their siblings again after being apart from each other so they can cultivate deeper relationships. Rooted Kinections understands that all children deserve an opportunity to spend meaningful time at camp while also prioritizing seeing their siblings.
In addition to building sibling connection, Rooted Kinections gives kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend camp. Did you go to sleep away camp as a kid? It can be an important experience for children and can profoundly impact a child’s life.
Camp provides children with an opportunity to have fun, make new friends, and learn new skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Being at camp makes kids feel more independent and in control of their lives. Most children thrive on normalcy and routine and in the summer, without school, routine is often nonexistent. For foster children, routine and normalcy may not exist in their day-to-day lives due to trauma and instability. Camp can provide the predictability of a schedule and routine that can be comforting and grounding. For instance, each day there might be swimming at 10:30, while boating is at 1:00, and arts and crafts is at 2:00. A schedule keeps kids calm, focused and able to immerse themselves in the activities. When routines are implemented, children can also feel more productive knowing that they have done multiple things that day.
Unfortunately, some children may feel isolated and alone at home or during the school year, depending on their relationships with their peers. Camp nurtures a sense of community and belonging in a lighthearted way outside of a structured learning, school environment. Some children may have never met other children outside of school to develop friendships. It allows children to interact and connect while living together. Bunks can have a strong bond that is built on trust. Being able to be in a group can make a child’s personality shine and feel most like themselves. They can make new friends and feel like they are a part of a supportive community.
One of the most exciting parts of camp for all children is the opportunity to explore new interests and activities. The costs of activities in many areas are quite expensive, only allowing parents and caregivers to only focus on one or none. Or maybe, a guardian lives in an area where a child feels like they need to pick one sport and spends 10 hours a week focusing on that alone. These reasons provide limited access to extracurricular activities while camps can provide a wide variety of activities such as arts, sports, and outdoor adventures. Getting to try out something new every couple of days is exciting and a child can learn to expand their horizons and what interests them. While participating in new activities throughout the camp day, they can also meet other kids that have similar interests, forming new friendships.
Reflecting on my own camp experience, one thing I’ve always cherished is how it developed my self-confidence. Many children may have faced difficult challenges in their lives, but camp can give them the chance to be successful in a new environment. They may have encountered numerous hardships in their lives, but camp can give them the chance to thrive in a new setting and start fresh. Self-confidence can be built while auditioning for the camp play or trying a new sport with your bunkmates. They can learn to tackle challenges and gain a sense of achievement. Imagine never being on a ropes course, and by the third day of camp being able to finish it without looking down!
Camp can be a sanctuary where they can let their guard down, engage in leisure activities and feel secure. Being in nature also helps and contributes to opening their eyes to the beauty that surrounds them. Overall, camp lets children try new things, can help them learn accountability and to be more independent, and allows them to meet new people that can be lifelong friends. It can be a place where they can relax, have fun, feel safe, and enjoy the summer as well!
Fun fact: Photo is where I attended camp as a child! In 2022, I spent the weekend as an adult… and it was amazing!