Southwestern Assemblies of God University hosted its first Royal Family Kids Camp. Students and staff members volunteered the first week of July 2011 to provide a camp for abused and neglected children.
Connections with Child Protective Services and local foster care agencies enabled the camp to serve 38 children, ages six to 12, from the South Dallas area. Children attending the camp have experienced a wide range of abuse and neglect (emotional, psychological or physical abuse, witness to family violence, or victimization through human trafficking).
Other Royal Family Kids Camps are each organized by a church. This is the first camp organized by the cooperative effort of a university (SAGU) and a church (Trinity Church of Cedar Hill).
“The efforts of SAGU and Trinity created a place where children were immersed in the love of God and volunteers were bound together in loving others as Jesus would/does,” SAGU professor and camp director Darren Daugherty said.
Thirty-four SAGU students volunteered as counselors, in addition to another five SAGU staff members and two faculty. Camp staff included 34 Trinity Church members and SAGU staff members. “Our SAGU students were absolutely amazing. I could not have asked to work with a better team. They displayed so much love, patience, and gentleness to the kids,” Daugherty said.
At the beginning of the week, the children received a “Rock Star” welcome from volunteers who were cheering and waving signs as children stepped off the bus onto the SAGU campus. The children enjoyed crafts, games, swimming, fishing, chapel times, a Fourth of July carnival, a Texas Rangers baseball game, a talent show night and a surprise birthday party. On one day of the week, the girls even received manicures and pedicures.
The camp’s purpose is to create life-changing moments for abused children. It also introduces and/or reinforces a healthy family model to the children. Besides counselors, the volunteer staff includes camp “grandmas,” “grandpas,” “aunts,” and “uncles.” The camp leadership pays careful attention to protecting the children’s identity. Most often, volunteers do not know the child’s background until shortly before meeting him or her. Yet, in the safe atmosphere created at camp, many children feel free to confide in an adult for the first time.
SAGU staff member George Taylor, “Uncle G,” shares some of his interactions with a couple of the children. “One little boy asked me, ‘All these people are here, and they don’t get paid? They must really love us,’ he shared. Another child shared how he was abused by a family member. This all hits close to home for me. I was put into foster care when I was six, so I understand what these kids are dealing with.”