Since 1995, Southern Nevada foster children have been reunited with their siblings annually at Camp To Belong, a nationally recognized summer camp program. This year brothers and sisters will once again come together to partake in a week of fun and memories June 20-27 hosted by Camp Mariastella in Wrightwood, CA.
Camp To Belong is dedicated to reuniting siblings placed in separate foster homes and other out of home care for events of fun, emotional empowerment and sibling connection. Supervised by volunteer counselors, the campers’ days are filled with lively and meaningful activities giving brothers and sisters the opportunity to experience new things together such as swimming, canoeing, challenge courses, hiking and archery. Each afternoon, siblings participate in art activities, while nights are filled with bonfires and inspirational activities. Camp To Belong has also built in unique traditions including a signature birthday celebration where each camper is surprised with a gift from their sibling and they share a special cake made just for them … a priceless event that is often missed when living apart.
“Brothers and sisters…they argue and tease and take each other for granted, yet sibling relationships are generally the longest experienced in life,” said Jeff Grandy, Camp To Belong Nevada administrator. “In foster care, keeping siblings together is one of the many challenges that face the child welfare system. The Camp To Belong experience provides lifetime memories that can never be taken away.”
Camp To Belong was founded in Las Vegas by Lynn Price, herself a former youth-in-care. She later moved to Colorado and the program went with her. Camp To Belong continued to serve youth in our local foster care system but with state line and cost barriers, so few children from Clark County were able to participate.
In 2005, Las Vegas residents Cristine Lindholm and Betsey Husted attended as volunteer counselors. Collectively they decided it was time to bring the program back to Nevada and in 2008, Child Focus became the local camp operator.
Camp To Belong Nevada’s goal is to send 80 Clark County youth to camp again this year, but the support of the community is critical. Help is needed in the following areas:
Camper referrals (from the legal guardian of youth living separate due to foster, adoptive, or other out-of-home care placements) Volunteer camp counselor applicants Donations to help make Camp To Belong Nevada and other sibling preservation events possible
About Child Focus
Child Focus is a non-profit agency providing many vital supportive services and resources which enrich the lives of children living in foster care in Southern Nevada. The goal of the organization is to work within the system to become a powerful voice for change. Child Focus partners with many national and local child welfare organizations to create a strong network of support and caring within our community.
Current programs and services include Mentoring, Sibling Preservation, Birthday Wishes and Step Up. The Mentoring program partners each youth with a caring adult who provides guidance and support, helping each young person excel and reach individual goals. Sibling Preservation fascilitates quarterly “get together” events, creating shared memories for siblings living in separate homes, in addition to managing Camp To Belong, a week-long summer camp experience for brothers and sisters. Birthday Wishes provides gifts to youth in care ensuring that no child is forgotten on their special day. And Step Up is a state of Nevada funded initiative supporting youths in transition from foster care, teaching them to become self sufficient members of society. The Step Up program has been administered by Child Focus since 2005. Child Focus: 4310 S. Cameron, Suite 13, Las Vegas, NV 89103. 702.436.1624, www.childfocusnv.org.