WHO WE ARE
We are a caring, compassionate community with a common goal of bringing hope to children of prisoners!
We believe in extending grace and value to the children we serve. Whether it is a counselor patiently working with an angry child, a wrangler helping them overcome their fear of riding a horse, or the cooks putting out seconds and thirds at meals so our campers can fill up; we strive to make camp the place where our children experience the tender care that they need to heal.
We know that the children will have emotional and relational problems and we are ready for it.
We know these children are desperately in need of the hope of Jesus to give them the fortitude to address the challenges they face. The games, group sessions, camp activities and gentle one-on-one times are all part of building hope in the hearts of children of prisoners.
WHO WE SERVE
We serve the most fragile families in America – families of prisoners.
One in 28 children in America have a parent in prison (2.7 million children). For African American children, the ratio is one in nine. This is just the tip of the iceberg because 10 million children in America have HAD a parent in prison at some time in their life.
The impact of incarceration on the family is multifaceted and profound. One mother summed it up this way, “when my husband was sentenced to prison, I wasn’t broken- you can fix broken. I was shattered.” Another mother shared “as the judge finished reading my husband’s sentence I went into shock. I quickly made my way to the bathroom and collapsed on the floor in a flood of tears.”
This is just the beginning of their challenges. Some of these include:
- Lonely Grief – When there is a death in a family the community shows up with condolences, nostalgic memories and meals to help them through their time of loss. But when a family member is incarcerated more often than not, the community pulls away and the family must grieve and face the challenges of their loss on their own. The average life sentence is five years; for a five year old that is a lifetime. For the eleven year old this means he will be driving before the next time he can hang out with dad. And for the 13 year old girl the next time she dances with daddy she will be a woman. These families need tender acts of compassion, understanding ears to just listen, and loving shoulders they can cry on.
- Shame– We have all had the feeling of wanting to hide under the table when a loved one does something embarrassing, though no fault of our own. Families of prisoners feel this times ten. Their loved one’s poor choices are on the news, in the paper, and on the radio. One of our campers named her first day at school after her father murdered a family friend, as the “worse day of her life.” It was like she was trapped in a fish bowl with the most embarrassing memory on display for all to see. Another wife was so ashamed of her husband’s incarceration she could only refer to it as “the situation” when talking with her counselor. Shame is not, “I made a mistake.” Shame is, “I/we ARE a mistake.” These families desperately need to be treated with dignity, value, understanding, and respect.
- Financial Strain – there are no safety nets for families affected by incarceration. They don’t automatically receive unemployment, Social Security, or life insurance payments. Instead they receive a significant loss of income, the full responsibility of caring for the children, legal fees, higher insurance premiums, and expensive collect calls from prison. Eviction is a real possibility because they can no longer afford the place where they are living. These families need the support of a loving community that has their back.
Indomitable Survivors and Bearers of Hope- despite these challenges we have watched many families of prisoners overcome these odds and become beacons of hope to others. in recent years more than half of our support staff have been former campers now bringing hope to others.
WHAT WE DO
We provide a compassionate, loving community where children of prisoners can begin to thrive!
Mentoring – The most common factor in the success of an at-risk youth is positive relationships with caring adults. Our monthly mentoring program provides children of prisoners with positive relationships where they can ask questions, receive encouragement, and grow.
Summer Camp – Our summer camp program is uniquely designed to address many of the different challenges children of prisoners face. Activities includes horse riding, archery, Bible lessons, field games, swimming and many other camp activities. We also talk about incarceration and give campers tools to succeed during this challenging time in their lives.
Creating Leaders – Not only are children of prisoners healing, CDO creates a special setting where young and old can serve and grow in their leadership skills. Camp provides a place for our teens to give back which builds their joy center and helps them realize their value. The growth in their ability to work hard, lead, and serve and the overall impact on their lives is amazing.
WHAT WE ACHIEVE
Camp David’s objective is to break the cycle of generational incarceration through hope and opportunities for families of prisoners. Year after year we serve an average of 225 children, which is about 130 families in the state of Missouri. What a joy to watch our students begin to do well in school, and lead their siblings in finishing high school and going on to college!
Camp David administers and collects post surveys on all student participants in order to measure the effectiveness of the program, adjust future activities, and tailor lessons as needed for greater impact.
QUOTES FROM CHILD PARTICIPANTS:
- “I learned about team building. My favorite things were the horses and swimming” -Ciara
- “I learned about archery. My favorite things were swimming and horses.” -Janiya
- “I learned about teamwork and leadership. My favorite things were riding horses and having fun.” -Jabari
- “I learned that God is always on time. My favorite things were making new friends and laughing” -Danielle
- “I learned that it is not my fault my dad is incarcerated. My favorite things were horses and archery.” – TJ
- “I learned about God and how he forgives no matter what. My favorite things were horseback riding and archery” -Ocean
- “I learned about Jesus and the way He died on the cross so God could forgive us for our sins. My favorite things were swimming and horseback riding.” –Jared
- “I learned about teamwork on the obstacle course! My favorite things were making new friends, archery, fishing, and my counselors!”-Carlton
- “I learned about saving myself for the person God set in store for me. My favorite things were swimming, the Princess Dinner, horses, and singing.” – Zanjiah
- “I learned about how God is there with me every part of my life. My favorite things were horseback riding and swimming. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me. Coming to this camp opened my heart and mind to the Lord. This was a very good and new experience for me! Thank you, God bless you!”- Jade
QUOTES FROM PARENTS/CAREGIVERS:
- “Learning about Jesus was meaningful to my son. He also really enjoyed learning about growing a garden.”- A.H
- “I noticed my son is now a little more at ease around others. He has come out his shell a bit more.” –A.H
- “My grand-daughter has not stopped talking about drugs, cigarettes, lying etc. being sinful and how we must forgive people who do these things and not to grow up like that.”-D.C
- “The boys like the experience of getting away from the city, making new friends, and being able to play and do things without worrying about things they have to worry about when playing outside at home.” –C.Y
- “Each year she becomes a better person and learns more about the Bible. I am glad she is a part of this wonderful experience thru a difficult situation.” – T. Q
- “When my boys came home, they were so excited about telling a lot of verses to us and said that they know God lives in them no matter what or where or who they are.” C.Y
- “Dennis always enjoys the photo book he brings back from camp. He looks at it over and over and still has the others for the last 4-5 years.” L.S
- “My grandson has a lot of “emotional baggage” as do most of the camp kids, but CDO gives us such a good base-it is amazing! I know it’s a LOT of work but keep it up-we do appreciate you!” –L.V
- “The gathering at the camp fire and sharing experiences. Awesome for my grandson to receive a medal for having the most points for interacting with your team, building teamwork.” – P.B
QUOTES FROM ADULT PARTICIPANTS:
“God bless you for allowing your heart to give me this wonderful experience. You are the reason I know I have purpose in life- you allowing me to participate has brought me closer to God and I have made new friends. I know I’m not alone and I’m special and worthy. Thank you kindly. This means more than you’ll ever know.” T
“Wonderful program!! It’s nice to know that someone out there cares and it was great to be surrounded by others you can relate to. I hope this program continues and I look forward to future retreats!!” D
“I have never had so much joy and peace in a long time. Just to open up my mind and heart and soul not be ashamed to be with others not judgmental. I’m glad to have the pleasure to enjoy what my children love, a place where I can be a kid again. Delightful. A mind blowing blessing. With that being said, I love my camp family.” Y