Papa’s Cubs Grow at Camp

For a lot of wild animals, it’s the male who leaves the family high and dry. Take deer for example; when was the last time you saw a buck running with his wife and children? He’s usually gallivanting through the woods or playing a game of cards with his deer friends. Bears are much the same but after a lot of research, we’ve found a papa bear that breaks the mold. Single dad John has raised three terrific children and thanks to help from Jameson Camp, his cubs are all grown up. Six years ago, John was a husband and hard-working father who put in 12-hour overnight shifts as a Psych Nurse. Since he left for work in the evening and didn’t get home until after the kids got on the school bus, he only saw his children for about 30 minutes every day. It was a loving sacrifice made by a father who just wanted the best for his family. Unfortunately his other half wasn’t on the same page. During the days while John was at work, he assumed his wife was at home, taking care of the children. It turns out that she had developed a substance-abuse problem. There were many days that she would leave the children home alone, and this neglect had serious consequences on the family. John’s oldest child took it the worst; he got involved in alcohol and started skipping school. Not only did he have to worry about his wife and oldest son and their substance-abuse issues, John also had to take care of two young children, all while continuing his stressful work as a Psych Nurse. The burden was becoming quite heavy on Papa Bear’s shoulders, but soon a forgotten gift reappeared in the form of summer camp. Prior to the family unrest, John’s youngest children, Chris and Clara had been attending Jameson Camp for a few years. It wasn’t until they faced some serious adversity that John realized the value of camp. “They learned responsibility,” he said. “I credit a lot of their development to Jameson Camp.” Despite not having a parent at home most of the time, Chris and Clara were able to translate their support from Jameson into a steady home life. “While everything else in their lives had exploded, Jameson Camp was something they were familiar with,” John said. The benefits of camp were evident. “Chris had always been isolative and shy,” John said. “But after attending camp his social skills improved tremendously.” Being in a supportive environment, surrounded by kids his age, Chris was able to open up at camp. “It was a great breakthrough for Chris in attending Jameson Camp having the opportunity to work with other youth and I know that brought him out of his shell a great deal. He is leaps and bounds beyond where he was when he started.” For 16-year-old Clara, half her life has been spent at Jameson. She was a traditional camper for her first four years at Jameson, then in 2013 she was invited to camp for a follow-up as a potential Youth Leader. This is when Clara truly learned about the welcoming atmosphere at Jameson. “During the follow ups, I learned that camp was my second home,” she said. To this day, Clara is unsure who recommended her as a Youth Leader but as she puts it, “I am forever thankful for them.” Undoubtedly it was this anonymous support that helped kick start the growth of Clara the Cub. With her involvement in the Youth Leadership program, Clara gained valuable skills like communication, leadership and teamwork. “Being with a group of 5-8 people for weeks at a time taught me to be a team player,” she said. The program provided multiple leadership workshops on communication and Clara was able to practice her newly acquired skills on the annual A.C.E. camping trips. These talents have also translated into the classroom where Clara is currently a features writer for her school paper. Friendships forged from camp are strong bonds and Clara’s experience with her fellow Youth Leaders is a perfect example of that. For her, being a Youth Leader meant “creating unbreakable bonds.” After being with the same group of people for a few summers in a row, she was able to develop meaningful relationships with kids her age. Losing the connection with her mother was devastating for Clara, but the companionship with camp friends helped bring some joy back to her life and gave her hope for a brighter future. “They are not just camp friends now,” she said. “They are lifetime friends I want to keep up with.” It’s easy to think of camp as only benefiting children. But for single parents like John, the chance to send kids to a safe, encouraging environment offers a much-needed break. “It was a respite care situation,” he said. “I was able to get household chores done and other things that were necessary at home.” While taking care of his domestic duties, John also knew his children were growing at Jameson Camp. “They’ve become more responsible and better decision-makers,” he said. “I’m very proud of my children and I appreciate everything that Jameson Camp has done for them.”
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