Camp SkyChild began in 1989 at the College of Great Falls for children whose parents are incarcerated in a Montana prison or who are in the correctional system. The camp was started with the idea of breaking the cycle of violent behavior and/or drug usage of the adult family members who are in the criminal justice system. Children of parents in the correctional system are six times more likely to enter the prison system themselves.
The camp helps to show at -risk children they are not alone; there are others just like them and in the same/similar situations. Many of these children are old beyond their years from growing up with the day to day experiences of violence and drugs in their lives. The children experience abandonment by the incarcerated parent. These children also face the daily pressures of the outside world. It is not easy to be that kid whose parent is a drug addict, the kid whose father murdered someone or the kid whose mother embezzled money. The week of just being children provided by the camp lets the campers understand that they have value and it is ok to just be a kid. The camp provides positive role models, home cooked food and plenty of exercise and positive experiences. Over 80% of the children at the camp are FAS or FAA and have medical conditions associated with fetal alcohol conditions. We have children at the camp with severe autism, depression, behavioral and adjustment problems. The children come to camp without proper shoes, clothing or sleeping bags.
University of Providence undergraduate students are the volunteer camp counselors and make wonderful mentors for the children. The children see our students as young adults who are making something of their lives. With the students working on a cross section of degrees it also gives the children the advantage to hear about the different directions they can take their own lives. Graduate students from University of Providence counseling program provide education and structure for the undergraduate students as well as working directly with the children who are having adjustment problems at the camp.
Many of the children of Camp SkyChild return year after year. Many of these children are so desperate to attend the camp they start calling us to see when the camp will be or to make sure we didn’t forget about them. The camp has a positive impact on the children and in a lot of cases it is the only positive motivation and feedback they receive. Activities of the camp focus on self-esteem, self-sufficiency and cultural awareness.
Camp SkyChild was originally intended for 45 children but most years we have as many as 80-85 children. How do you turn a child away? The camp this year is scheduled for August 4-8. The camp is held at the Rotary Camp just outside Monarch. We need help in the kitchen, with arts and crafts and just being with the children….come up for the day or for the whole camp…..I guarantee sound sleep after a day being with these great children. Send an email to Professor Deb Kottel if you can volunteer or have art and craft supplies that you can donate. firstname.lastname@example.org.