Last night I came home from Royal Family Kid's Camp.
It was utterly amazing.
Royal Family Kid's Camp is an organization whose mission is to provide a positive, fun, happy, life-affirming camp experience to kids who have been abused or neglected. Most of them are currently in foster care. All have had intervention from social services. At camp, they sleep in safety in decorated rooms, eat three square meals every day, swim, rock climb, fish, kayak, do archery, make crafts, dress up, and attend parties and bonfires and dances in their honor. It is so, so awesome.
Kellie was my partner counselor. Before Royal Family last year, I didn't think I could fall in love so fast, be so patient, attach so deeply, or feel another person's sorrow with such intensity.
I learned that foster kids are just kids. They want what everyone else wants: love, security, safety, stability, to belong. They want to have fun and be silly and forget about all the hard places.
Their stories are hard. So hard that it kept me up at night. My girls have experienced homelessness, abandonment by a parent, sexual abuse, neglect, and cruel mistreatment - and for some of them, all of the above. When I first heard their stories (both years), I expected specific girls to be very difficult to handle. And both times now, the girls with the longest files and the toughest stories blew me away with how gentle, kind, funny, and easy they were to be around.
In short, they are the most amazing people I have ever met.
Loving them and caring for them for one week is a privilege I can't describe. They are forever burned into my memory, and I can't be the same anymore.
This year, my girls were just as amazing. I had A, and two sisters, M and H. (They are wards of the state and so their identities are protected. I'd love to share their names and photos - I can't even have photos of them!) I had a lovely partner counselor, Debbie. It was a beautiful week.
Best of all, two of my girls from last year came back. One in particular, sweet T - she has my heart. Her smile is just electric, and her spirit is sunshine. She had a tough year. She and her older sister both came to camp last year, and they were completely inseparable. I learned that her sister is in a terrible place emotionally, and might possibly be institutionalized for bad behavior, acting out violently, running away, etc. They have been separated. T is in an adoptive home, which is best case scenario. Please, please pray this is a good and permanent situation, and that the best of all ends can come to her and her sister. I spent some quality time with her this year, and I was refreshed to my core just being around her.
Royal Family has taught me so much about myself, about the God I serve. Being a counselor is a tremendous, life changing experience that I would highly recommend. You can also serve on staff in all kinds of roles. You can find a local camp here.