I had a wonderful experience the last weekend in September when I attended Camp Mariposa here in Washington State. This is a camp for children affected by addiction in the family. This particular one was for younger kids age 9 - 12.
A few years ago I was approached by Karen and Jamie Moyer (professional baseball player) as they have a foundation whose mission is focused on children in need. The outcome is that through the Bellevue based agency Youth Eastside Services (YES) they offer 6 camps a year for kids 9 - 17 years of age. The camp includes an outdoor challenge and ropes course as well as singing and s-mores! I had to laugh as one of the songs was a song I use to sing when I went bar hopping as a child with my father. (He went to the bar—I was just waited in the car for hours, but we sang between bars.)
These kids tend to not come from homes with recovery, and many have needed alternative living situations. As one young boy said to me, 'Most of us have been raised by girls.' He meant single mothers, aunts, grandmothers, or other females. There were few family heroes, mostly they identified as lost children and family mascots.
Andrea Frost from YES leads the weekends and has a staff of twelve with her for the twenty four kids. That in itself was incredible. I loved watching the tools they used to calm and refocus 24 very active kids. They actually had them knitting-and yes the boys loved it. They would do a yoga pose, and then shake out their stress, learning about letting go. I enjoyed the creativity of how they worked with kids, using analogies of trees or animals, talking about feelings, family roles, and self care. Of course when the kids acted out family scripts you realized just how much they've seen and internalized. It was a lot of fun for them to be on stage, to be seen and heard and to own so much of the reality of their lives.
Throughout the weekend, the focus was on taking some of these new skills into their daily lives, knowing that the kids were still in some very difficult situations. To see them have so much fun while learning to trust, learn skills of self care, talk honestly.... well you get the picture. It was touching and inspiring to see these kids have such a good time in a traditional camp setting. For the staff at YES it was a weekend of great compassion, skill and commitment beyond the normal work expectation and as is often true, Karen Moyer was in attendance, actively participating. The Moyer Foundation will soon be implementing Camp Mariposa in Indiana and Florida. To learn more about Camp Mariposa and Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children, visit the Moyer Foundation.