Forty local children who have experienced abuse or neglect and have been placed in foster or kinship care experienced a week of fun and royal treatment at the Royal Family Kids (RFK) Camp. Children enjoyed fishing, swimming, a talent show, and fireworks at the camp in July in Marion.
“Royal Family Kids Camp is a life-changing experience for the campers and the volunteers,” said Ben Moore, co-director of RFK.
RFK invites children who have attended camp in the past to return subsequent years, offering support to families who have reunified. A total of 65 volunteers and 100 organizations support the RFK camp as well as year-round mentoring activities for these local children to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Locally, the nonprofit For the Children has been operating RFK for 20 years. They work closely with Marion County Children Services to identify children who may benefit from these programs.
RFK continued to meet the needs of the children and families they served through the COVID-19 pandemic by operating a one-day camp for past participants. They met basic needs through delivering groceries, clothing, and a hot meal, as well as other reported, needs the family may have had, including a refrigerator for one family. They were able to safely continue mentoring club, only taking two months off due to the stay-at-home order.
Moore and his wife Elizabeth have been volunteers for over 11 years. Both are active members of the community who are able to see campers throughout the year in their positions. Moore is a bus driver for Marion City Schools and has been able to follow some of the former campers into high school where he was also able to drive them for school activities. Moore reports one camper’s mom told the organization this year that her older son was doing so well, including taking college credit classes while in high school, because of the impact the organization had on her family over the years.
“It is the first vacation that makes the family calendar. We have recruited family and friends to join us, and our kids even enjoy helping in the prep process while anxiously waiting for their turns to go to camp,” Moore said. “Our only regret is not joining sooner.”
Moore has recruited his brother and sister-in-law who are the camp aunt and uncle, while there is also a set of grandparents for both the boys and girls. Moore elaborates to explain that some children in care are now being raised by family and don’t get the traditional experience of having aunts, uncles, or grandparents who can be silly and “send them back.” They experience this through camp.
“I have had several kiddos that I work with that have had the opportunity to attend camp provided by Royal Family Kids,” Cameron Phelps, Placement Caseworker from Marion County Children Services said. “Every kiddo that I’ve spoken to about their experience have all had positive remarks to say. It’s amazing that these kiddos have the opportunity to take a break from their daily lives, some struggling day to day, and just be kids. We often forget that some kids don’t have that opportunity, and RFK provides that opportunity for so many kiddos in unique situations.”
Programming costs approximately $650 per camper for the overnight camp and $250 per child in mentoring club. The mentoring club operates during the school year and will be taking 10 kids for their third year of operation.
Applications to volunteer are available around January of each year and can be found on the For the Children Marion, Ohio Facebook page. Volunteers must be over the age of 16, submit to an interview and background check and complete 12 hours of training for camp with an additional six for