Bunkbeds. Campfires. Late Nights. Mess Halls. New Friendships. New Skills.
Many of us enjoy summer camp while growing up. Sometimes they are day camps; while other camps provide overnight experiences. Either way, summer camp affords opportunities for growth, fun, and skill building. As many foster and adopted children aren’t exposed to the idea of summer camp, in the last three years, Our Kids of Miami-Dade and Monroe has made a concerted effort to bring the summer camp experience to life for more and more of the adopted and foster children in our care.
Since Summer 2011, Our Kids has offered summer camp scholarships to both foster and adopted children, providing funding of up to $750 per child. Based on the child’s interests and passions, families select the camp of their choice. This year, Our Kids spent approximately $415,000, sending nearly 700 children to various camps including, faith based, music, tutoring, sports, karate, art, dance, sailing and special needs programs. The children also attended YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and Dade County Parks and Recreation day camps.
The participating parents and children are incredibly appreciative of the Our Kids scholarships, and we receive countless calls and thank you emails expressing their gratitude: “My child is having a wonderful time at camp,” “My child thinks camp is awesome,” “I can’t thank you enough for this incredible opportunity” and “Thank you for all the wonderful experiences you have given me.” These are just a sample of the meaningful notes we have received.
Meeting new friends, gaining a better understanding of a concept, improving skills, team building exercises, experiencing new, challenging opportunities and growth as individuals: these concepts are available – in a multitude of forms – thru summer camp programs. At Our Kids, we believe these opportunities are critical and can be transforming and even life changing.
Some of the highlights of Our Kids summer 2013 camp experiences:
- Camp for Champions – Our Kids partnered with DCF to send over 30 children to a week-long day camp, Camp for Champions, at Florida International University (FIU). Our champion for the week was the Miami Marlins Andre Dawson. Children ages 10-15 participated in a variety of sports, arts and crafts, swimming, the FIU ropes course, mentoring and team building activities.
- Camp Sib – Our Kids sent seven children (three sibling groups) to DCF’s three-day, overnight camp in North Florida. This camp is designed for siblings who are separated in foster care. It gives them an opportunity to spend time together, while participating in fun camp activities.
- Florida Sheriff Youth Ranches – Our Kids sent over 50 children to a week-long overnight camp at the Florida Sheriff Youth Ranches near Ocala, Florida. The camp is for both foster and adopted children. Campers live in cabins while learning how to share and get along in group settings. Each day provides a balance between work and play, and the camp also helps youth gain a better understanding and respect for law enforcement.
- Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center – Our Kids sent 46 foster children, in three separate groups, to a week-long, overnight camp at CHARLEE’s North Carolina Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center. This decade-old program is often a transformational and rewarding experience for the campers. Camp provides a physically and emotionally safe learning environment where individuals gain self-understanding and self-confidence, while enjoying simple living, friendship and fun.
After summer, Our Kids continues to provide support to our foster and adopted children with back to school supplies and school uniforms.
- Back to School Backpacks: Our Kids is thrilled to again be the recipient of a generous donation from Office Depot of over 5,000 backpacks filled with school supplies. Office Depot’s donation is made possible by the work of the Voices for Children Foundation, the Miami-Dade and Monroe Guardian Ad Litem Program. http://voices4.org/
- School Uniforms: Our Kids is happy to once again partner with Neat Stuff to provide a week’s worth of new, school uniforms to 2,000 children. These new uniforms allow the children to dress with pride, confidence and dignity.