Camp Appalachia is a yearlong camp whose target camper is a child between the ages of 7 and 17 and is at a high risk for destructive life choices. We will be providing a little to no cost resident camp experience to kids who are directly affected by the opioid epidemic, kids in the foster care system, and kids who have one or more parents incarcerated. We currently have a summer day camp, but we are in the process of bringing our ten residential cabins up to code so that we can be a resident camp as well. We operate 12 months per year with our focus being opioid prevention, outdoor education, leadership, and resiliency building.
The reason our camp was started is because we have a deep desire to help serve the people of our community, especially our underserved and high-risk youth. Our founders and leadership team believe in West Virginia. We have identified substance abuse prevention and learning the skill of resiliency as two areas where the kids in our community need help. We have partnered with Bill Odell and the Putnam Wellness Coalition to provide the substance abuse prevention portion of our programming. We have also partnered with West Virginia State University and their Health and Human Performance department to make our programs dynamic and full of impact. Our counselors and staff are trained to provide trauma informed care. We have targeted Kanawha, Putnam, Lincoln, Jackson, and Cabell counties as our primary areas of focus.
According to "The Effects of a Summer Camp Experience on Factors of Resiliency in At-Risk Youth," a study done by Towson University, camp is a useful and effective tool to help at risk youth develop resiliency. Occupational therapists have suggested that a shift needs to occur from a problem-based model to a strength-based model. A problem-based model focuses solely on fixing the child's problem, so the problem is always most prominent, while with a strength-based model, a child's resiliency and ability to adapt and overcome these problems and issues is highlighted. In their research, they noted that Positive Youth Development (PYD) is founded on the belief that successful development does not occur from the absence of risky behavior, but from the presence of positive attributes that enable youth to reach their full potential (Lerner & Benson, 2003).
The very nature of camp fosters this strength-based model. When campers arrive on their first day, they are placed in their respective groups. These groups are together at most times throughout the day and will participate in activities that make all campers work toward a common goal. This could be anything from a simple scavenger hunt to acting out a skit. The camp is programed to build a strong “camp family” bond early on. Once these bonds are formed, activities move from being group based to individual based. At this point, the camper is more comfortable and feels part of a camp community; therefore, it can be easier to try new things. If they are initially unsuccessful, staff and other campers offer support and encouragement until a particular activity is mastered. This builds self-confidence by showing the camper that although a task is hard or intimidating at first, it is possible. This change in thought process can be taken away from camp and applied to all areas of life and build resiliency and confidence for them to pursue other activities in school, at home, and in their respective communities.
When a person hears about a camp, it is generally associated with the summer time. Although we do have summer day camp and summer resident camp offerings we are in operation 12 months per year. In the non-summer months, we offer Outdoor Education, in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Forestry and Project Learning Tree. We assimilate substance abuse prevention into all areas of the outdoors.