By: Scott Johnson, Lamoille Family Center
In a 2017 article co-authored by Boston Pediatrician, Bob Sege, MD, PhD, et al., the authors highlight recently released data about fostering healthy childhood development by promoting positive experiences for children and families. The article recognizes that many families experience hardship and adversity, and they point to research about the importance of balancing those adversities and early life traumas with positive experiences that can grow hopefulness. The piece is called: Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) With HOPE* New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development, and the full article can be found at this website: https://www.cssp.org/publications/documents/Balancing-ACEs-with-HOPE-FINAL.pdf.
Assuring healthy outcomes for children is important and complicated work. Families, communities, schools, and workplaces all play a role in the support and development of healthy children. The Lamoille Family Center works across the Lamoille Valley region (Lamoille County plus the towns of Craftsbury, Greensboro, Hardwick, Stannard, and Woodbury), fostering hope and positive outcomes for children, youth, and families.
One way we build hope and support healthy lifestyles is through our “Send a Kid to Camp” program. Initiated as a celebration of the Family Center’s 40th anniversary three years ago, this highly successful program supports local children who otherwise would not be able to afford a summer camp experience. International expert and researcher on childhood trauma, Michael Unger, PhD, believes that camps can play a critical and positive role in a child’s trajectory.
“Camps help children feel in control of their lives, and those experiences of self-efficacy can travel home as easily as a special art project they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem-solvers in new situations long after the smell of the campfire is forgotten.”
The Family Center works with local schools and sister agencies to identify children who want to go to camp but whose families cannot afford to send them. In the camp’s second year, we were able to send 45 kids – almost double the number of kids to camp from the inaugural year. This year we are on track to treat 59 kids to outdoor and other fun camp experiences.
Here’s what one mother said about her son’s first camp experience:
“He came home from camp grinning ear to ear! Though it will take many months for him to tell us all about camp, he did say, ‘I have SO many friends, him and him and him and her. I don’t know their names but they are my friends.’ As we drove away from Camp Thorpe he was waving and people were waving goodbye and telling him they’d see him next year. I never ever imagined there would be a camp for him.”
We look forward to hearing from more kids this year with their stories about their summer experiences. Building hope in children is the best part of our jobs, and we believe these are smart investments in our future.