‘Put yourself in their shoes’: Camp offers unlabeled week for foster kids



Without Camp Rockin’ U, some foster children may never have the experience of summer camp.

The camp – which aims to provide an affordable camp to welcome young people and give them the chance to make friends and learn new skills – is hosting a day of family fun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 7.

Camp is at Lake Francis Resort, 13919 Lake Francis Road, Dobbins. It is 30 miles northwest of Grass Valley. A $10 entrance fee is required for ages 13 and up. There is no charge for children 12 and under.

“We want to offer a week of summer camp for young people, including foster children,” said Melody King, executive director of EA Family Services, which for 40 years has provided assistance to young people in foster family, children at risk of homelessness and a small executive. of those struggling with mental health issues.

“It’s really to showcase the Lake Francis Resort and it will be open house style,” she added. “We want people to know we’re here. It’s basically in our own backyard, and (we) want to talk to the folks at Camp Rockin’ U.”

The day will feature a variety of events, including archery, a rock face, Segway rides, arts and crafts, and additional activities. Burgers and soft drinks will be available for purchase, along with raffle tickets with an assortment of prizes.

“We want to provide a week of summer camp for all the kids as well as the youth in foster care,” King said. “And that’s a week away from tags, where they can just be a regular kid. And all proceeds from Camp Rockin’ U go to support our programs.

Also featured will be Darby Johnson, Camp Director of Camp Rockin’ U. Johnson started at camp as a counselor in 2003 and remained in various capacities until she left for the University of Utah for a few years, where she specialized in parks. /recreation/tourism, with an emphasis on adventure and outdoor programs. She left before graduation because she was offered the position of camp director at Rockin’ U.

“It was hard to justify staying in school when I was offered the job I wanted,” she said. “It would be nice to have that degree, but I love my job and I love living in California.”


About 30% of Camp Rockin’ U children go through the foster care system, Johnson said. However, the management does not inform any staff or other campers who are in host families, which avoids stigma.

“They’re blamed for it and they’re targeted as the ‘bad kid,’ or that there’s something wrong with them,” she added. “When you’re separated from your parents, it’s traumatic. And traumatized children lash out either by running away or engaging in some other inappropriate behavior.

“If we put ourselves in their shoes, they feel like they’ve been snatched from where it was safest, even though it wasn’t entirely safe,” Johnson said. “And trauma can cause them to react to a new environment and new situations. But that’s not what happens in this camp. They’re just kids trying to get by.

Being a camp counselor can be hard work, Johnson said. There are 12 cabins, six for boys and six for girls, with eight per cabin. There are two advisers per cabin, a good ratio, Johnson said. The camp staff works diligently to keep the activities available in rotation. So half the camp one day can be at the pellet range, conquering the new rock climbing wall, or traversing camp on a Segway. Meanwhile, the other half will compete in soccer, basketball, softball or sand volleyball. Children will have the chance to lead the majority of their time at camp choosing from a wide range of different activities and learning experiences.

One of the goals of the camp is to develop children into strong leadership-oriented counsellors.

“We find that our campers really enjoy having some autonomy in their camp life,” Johnson said. “Leadership learning is an integral part of the program we have in place. When a person tries to climb the rock face for the first time, he is nervous. But even if they get halfway up the wall the first time, it builds confidence. So, I say, you’ve done half the wall and what does that tell you about your life…because if you can do that, you can do anything.

Another mentor is Mike Shanahan, a naturalist for seven years who works at the Shady Creek Outdoor School and Conference Center, and who this year launched a new outdoor education program at Camp Rockin’ U.

“It is science-focused and helps students progress in outdoor science,” he said.

Shanahan added that staff choose from a menu of courses they want. There are courses on the watershed; Discovery; plants and wildlife and what they need to survive; weather; archery; team building; and the senses, focused on hearing, sight and touch, which campers will record in a journal.

“What each student takes away from this class will be very different,” he said.

“For some they might be inspired to become scientists or aspire to an art form in nature, or for others it will connect them to the local community,” Shanahan added. “As well, a hiking course will help identify poison ivy and how to read a topographic map or learn to read outdoor signs of changing seasons. This is my first time teaching this kindergarten to fourth grade class. I hope the class will not be self-contained but will connect to other field trips they do as they progress through middle school so they have basic skills on the natural world.

William Roller is a staff writer at The Union. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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