From the outside looking in, it looks like a typical camp: kids laughing and enjoying games, crafts and songs; barbecues and water activities with new friends. Behind their smiles, it’s one week of the year kids can have fun without fear of harm or neglect, take part in special activities to show them they are loved and enjoy the basic comforts of having enough to eat and a safe, nurturing environment.
There are so many camps happening all around the country, but there is one camp that does things differently — Royal Family Kids Camps (RFKC). The goal: To create life-changing moments for children of abuse or neglect. The system: Provide opportunities for local businesses and groups to get involved in a very hands-on way in the camp kitchen, which helps share the message and the inspiring work of this remarkable week each summer. Give each camper a camp “buddy” for the week and create a five-day experience with plenty of great activities and positive memories that show a child they are wonderful just the way they are.
Royal Family Kids Camp, located in northwest Missouri at Camp Farwesta, Stewartsville, is part of the largest network of camps for abused and neglected children (as well as children in the foster care system) in the country. The St. Joseph area was introduced to Royal Family Kids Camp in 1993, with about 20 children attending this first camp located in Kansas. After a few years, camp organizers finally found a location for the camp in Missouri. This summer marked the 20 year anniversary of the camp in St. Joseph, located at Camp Farwesta off of 36 Highway.
RFKC provides the opportunity for local churches and groups to sponsor one five-day camp for these kids each year. Each camper is assigned a camp “buddy” who provides almost undivided and attention and encouragement throughout the week, due to the ratio of one adult volunteer to every two children. It’s a chance for the children to have an adult friend and role model in a non-violent, positive and faith-based way. For one week each year, kids can participate in the classic activities of summer, such as swimming, tie-dye, dress-up, Legos, and even field trips to places like the Kansas City Royals. For many, it’s the only true recreation they have throughout the year.
The biggest event of the week is one large birthday party for the campers. They celebrate with cake and a big gift box filled with unique things they will get to take home with them. This is an especially impactful event since many of these children have never had a birthday party, and it’s truly a hallmark of the week.
Another element that sets Royal Family Kids Camp apart is the long list of generous businesses, groups and service clubs who roll up their sleeves (and grab their spatulas) to serve all the meals for the week. Volunteers bring the food, prepare and serve it, and many come back year after year because they enjoy the experience so much. In fact, nationally, there were 9,324 volunteers who served over 1 million hours and raised over $4 million last year for the camps last year. Many of the camp “buddies” return each year – even flying from miles away and using vacation hours from work – just to come alongside a camper and encourage them throughout the week.
We would like to thank the St. Joseph Royal Family Kids Camp all the volunteers who helped make this 20th year possible in St. Joseph. As a team, Susan J. Campbell Copywriting Solutions looks forward to helping coordinate meals and serving the campers each year. We find, like all others who participate, that our favorite summer memory has become seeing the kids’ smiles first-hand. That’s something to celebrate this Monday morning!