“Our first year of Camp HOPE America — Washington was transformational. Not only for our campers but all staff, counselors, and volunteers that were involved. The best part was seeing the change in campers and knowing that all of the hard work and hours that are poured into making Camp HOPE America — Washington possible were totally worth it. Campers were able to participate in activities like white water rafting, challenging themselves to go outside their comfort zones, building trust within themselves as well as others, and creating long lasting friendships.

We had one camper that was really worried about rafting. She had a terrifying experience where she almost drowned on a family camping trip when she was younger. She was adamant that she would not get into the water during lake time, she was not interested in canoes, and she certainly did not want to go on the rafting trip. With her history of extreme panic attacks, we knew we would need to take baby steps with her. With the encouragement of other campers, her sister, and counselors, she decided to go into the lake with a life jacket. This was major for her, but we knew we had a mountain to move if we were going to get her into a raft on the river. Luckily, one of our local law enforcement partners who is part of the water rescue team was at camp volunteering and would be on our rafting trip. We were able to get her on the bus by ensuring her that she would be in his raft. When we arrived to the rafting location, we were able to have her rafting guide meet with her and talk about how long he had been guiding that river and answer any of her questions that she had. With all of our collaborative efforts, she gained enough courage to get on that raft!!! After that, she was swimming every day at camp and going back for seconds on the canoes, with a life jacket of course.

At one point during our first week of camp our staff looked at each other with tears in our eyes and said, ‘We love our campers and they need more than just a week away and a holiday party from us.’ As soon as we got back from camp, we started planning our monthly Camper Night Out. We have Camper Night Out one Friday night a month and campers really enjoy it. It has also provided our volunteers with the opportunity to stay involved with camp throughout the year. They have been cooking dinners for our Camper Night Out’s as well as hosting us with an off-site activity when they can. Our favorite Camper Night Out so far has been an evening at a local dance studio where campers received a hip hop lesson. We have had game nights, movie nights, and a night of making slime – that was a complete failure, but campers still had a blast. In May, we will be taking campers to the Ballet to see Alice in Wonderland.

This year we are most excited about getting all of the campers back together, while adding in new campers and recreating the magic that happens at Camp HOPE America. We know that our first year will always hold a special place in our hearts but we learned a lot and are hoping to make this year even better.”

– Rachel Scharber, Family Resource Services Program Manager, Camp HOPE America — Washington