It  may seem a little early to be thinking about summer camp but it is not too early to prepare for a week on the mission field- right here in your community’s back yard.

This upcoming summer many children will make their way to various camps across the state. Each child will have weeks of excitement experiencing the outdoors, honing skills in various sports, and receive spiritual guidance, all aimed to boost self-esteem and give kids a memorable time they will cherish forever.

Unfortunately due to state budget constraints and safety issues summer camp for children in foster care is not a possibility. This is something that several community members and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are working together to change. They have chosen to take on the call to start a Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) in June 2016. The goal of this camp is to specifically meet the needs of the children in a six-parish area who are in the “system” who otherwise might not have this kind of opportunity.

The desire of the camp team is to have 30 foster children attend camp this summer. “We want to keep the numbers low so we can focus on these children having the best camp experience ever,” said Sandra Samuel, RFK camp director. Applications will be submitted by caseworkers in Webster, Caddo, Bossier, Bienville, Claiborne and Jackson Parishes.

“Our campers are the kids that nobody else takes to camp.  The heart of RFKC is to take kids who have been treated like trash and treat them like royalty.  We believe there is nothing more life changing than experiencing unconditional acceptance,” Samuel continued.  Samuel has been advocating for Webster Parish children in foster care for three years through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program. She attended Louisiana’s first RFKC in the summer of 2014 in Mandeville. “These camps are the gateway to a whole new life, and we would love for you to join us,” said Samuel, who has joined with a board of teachers, ministers, concerned citizens and DCFS employees, looking to help better the life of children being cared for by statewide services.

“My experience at RFKC in Mandeville forever changed me. Through my work in CASA I have the responsibility to supervise volunteers in the trenches “being the voice” for children who have been neglected and abuse – sometimes even thrown away, said Samuel. “Through my volunteering at RFKC I was able to share something so much deeper with the children.  At camp I witnessed painful eyes light up with joy, I witnessed a child unwilling to speak start singing at random moments, and I had the amazing experience of watching little hearts let go of fear and accept being loved and have fun. “

Royal Family KIDS Camp opened in 1985 and was founded by Wayne and Diane Tesch.  Last year, 7,359 campers, ages 6 through 12 participated in a week at the camp guided by more than 11,000 volunteers. Among the volunteers were 163 former campers. This year marks the camp’s 30th year.

The Tesches have written three books, including 2010’s A Week of Memories-A Life of Hope, which featured stories of 20 former campers who returned to serve at the camps. In 2013, a filmmaker who served as a Royal Family counselor wrote and directed the movie Camp.

“The most important purpose for Royal Family Kids”, said Tesch, is moving people from the pew to purpose. A stay at the camp can make a tremendous difference in the life of a child who has been neglected and physically abused, he said.

“Our goal is not to change their life in a week,” says Scott Murrish, ambassador of vision for Royal Family KIDS Camp, “but to plant seeds of safety, hope, and love. That way, when they grow up, they can say that somebody loved me at Royal Family KIDS Camp, and that someone loved Jesus.”

It comes as no surprise that an event like this cannot happen without the help of donations from the people in the community. When asked about the funding of camp, Samuel said, “We are not looking for people to change the life of every kid in the world – just one kid per year.  It costs $600 to sponsor each camper.”

If you would like to give or volunteer your services for this year’s Royal Family Kids Camp please contact our team at www.minden.royalfamilykids.org., or like our Facebook page (Royal Family Kids Camp – Minden).  All donations are tax deductible, can be made out to Minden Royal Family Kids Camp and mailed to 407 Fort St. Minden, LA. 71055, or donations can be made online through our webpage (address above).

“Treating everyone royally and like family is the drive behind the name of our camp,” said Samuel and to do that RFKC-Minden is in need of individuals ready to show the love of Jesus as a volunteer in several areas.” Volunteers are needed for activity centers, grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, recreation, nurses and professional counselors, photography, and pre and post camp support.

Applications can be found at www.minden.royalfamilykids.org., and must be turned in by March 1, 2016. They can be mailed to 407 Fort St, Minden, LA 71055, or emailed to Sandra.samuel66@yahoo.com or faxed to 318-371-9822. “All approved applicants will have a background check, attend an interview and must have 12-hours of training. All of this is necessary because these children have already been traumatized so it is mandatory that all volunteers must be equipped to appropriately care for and protect them,” said Samuel.

RFKC-Minden board members are available to speak to any group, church or organization.