When we grow up, summer becomes idealized as the time of our happiest memories –of freedom and fun and friendship. We forget that summer can sometimes be lonely and dull, too long and too hot with not enough activity to fill the days. Away from home, out of school, and requiring the safe protection of emergency shelter, children at SafeHaven this summer had good reason to feel cut-off from the world. So SafeHaven brought the world to them.
Adventure Camp –a 10-week tour of the United States through crafts, food, games, field trips, and cultural activities—incorporated a weekly journey to a great American destination into daily life at the shelters. SafeHaven’s Children’s Program staff designed this special program to give children fun and meaningful outlets to channel their frustration, to relieve their boredom, and to fulfill their need for fun and connection.
In Hollywood, campers made their own stars and handprints for the “Walk of Fame”, listing the ways they would like to be remembered. Campers wrote their own “Camp Constitutions” in Philadelphia, made dreamcatchers in Santa Fe, ate Jambalaya in New Orleans, climbed mountains in Denver, and danced the hula in Honolulu. They explored the treasures in their own backyard with field trips to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Sid Richardson Museum, the Fort Worth Zoo, Joe Pool Lake, the Botanic Gardens, and more. SafeHaven staff incorporated themes of travel and exploration into daily children’s support groups with activities like “Following Your Moral Compass.”
Volunteers, donors, and partner agencies also stepped up to help kids at Adventure Camp feel the care and the support of the community all summer long. Mid-Cities SOS bought bathing suits and sandals for weekly trips to the pool; Recovery Resource Council hosted a “tobacco-free carnival” to teach the kids about the dangers of smoking; Carson Cares provided passes to Six Flags and purchased snow cones; and Harmony Fellowship Church threw the Mountains of Fun Party to kick off the summer.
Through the summer, 110 campers ages 6-18 participated in Adventure Camp, and 150 more children received childcare, play therapy, case management and other services in the shelters. The last week of camp, children displayed art projects they’d created each week, watched a slideshow of the moments they’d shared throughout the summer, and closed out camp by performing a special song recapping the highlights of their journey across the country.
The families who come to SafeHaven give up so much for their safety –the first and most important function of the shelters is protection from the very real threat of violence. As children and mothers navigated the stress and strangeness of life away from home this summer, Adventure Camp gave them the structure and support to fulfill the promise of summer with fun, friendships, and happy memories.
Private Grants Coordinator
SafeHaven of Tarrant County