Camp Sunrise is like any other sleep-away camp – kids running around from dawn to dusk, screaming with glee at the different crafts, sports, and activities filling their days, singing ’til their lungs go dry, and forming lifelong friendships – but with one difference.
For the kids at Camp Sunrise, their families don’t have the means to send them there.
Enter the Salvation Army.
For several decades, the Christian organization has been sending underprivileged children to camps across Canada to experience a week of carefree activities with no worries, no fears, no judgements – a week of what being a child should be.
In Chilliwack, that means 30-35 children between the ages of 7 and 12, who otherwise wouldn’t have this opportunity, get to go to camp.
“These kids are worth investing in,” said Chilliwack summer camps’ coordinator Chrisandra Nagel. “Every child deserves a chance. And the need is very real. We have a waiting list, but we can only afford to take so many.”
At a cost of $300 per child, plus the cost of a bus rental, the Chilliwack charity is looking at $11,500 to send this year’s group of kids. So far, it’s raised $5,000.
“If we could send every child, we would,” said Nagel.
“Parents can’t always do it on their own. It takes a community to raise a child and this is one way of doing that.”
For Tricia, a Chilliwack mom of six children, the Salvation Army’s summer camps have been a godsend not only for her children, but for her as well.
When Tricia was a child in foster care, happy moments were few and far between. That is, until she boarded the bus for camp.
“That was my escape,” she said. “I was safe there. All my problems at home didn’t exist for me there.”
Now, years later, her own children are experiencing those same joys.
While Tricia tries to do everything she can to provide for her children, she still falls under the “working poor” classification despite having full-time employment. Her income just doesn’t allow for extras like camp.
“There’s no way I could do it,” she said. “They wouldn’t be able to go.”
Which she believes would be a shame.
Camp Sunrise isn’t just about the camp experience, it’s about giving young children respite from the stresses, struggles, obstacles, and fears crowding their lives. Situated on Vancouver Island, it encourages emotional, social, physical and spiritual growth, with the intent of instilling in a child a stronger sense of self, individual worth, personal effectiveness and responsibility.
Tricia has seen the benefits first hand.
When her oldest daughter first went to Camp Sunrise at eight years old, she was timid and scared to leave her mom’s side, but after just a week she came home with a boost of self confidence.
“She believed in herself and her studies, and every year since she’s counted down the days to camp,” said Tricia, who has a drawer full of camp shirts, some that have faded and become more of tattered rags than t-shirts, but that her kids refuse to let her throw away
“Those shirts and those memories mean so much to them. At camp, everyone is accepted no matter who they are or where they come from – they’re all equals.”
This year’s camp runs from July 23-28.
Anyone interested in sponsoring a child, can contact the Salvation Army Care and Share Centre at 604-792-0001, or visit the website at www.salvationarmychilliwack.ca.