Coming to a press conference at the Tulsa Police Department, Neveah sat in the front row to hear an announcement Wednesday afternoon without knowing the announcement was going to be about her.
The 16-year-old knew only that it had something to do with Camp Hope, a program that she has been involved with since it came to Tulsa eight years ago, literally half her life ago.
A partnership between the Family Safety Center and YMCA Tulsa, Camp Hope provides a week-long summer camp and year-round mentoring program for kids who have experienced domestic violence.
“She’s been a part of it since the start,” said Karen Smith, the program director for Camp Hope Oklahoma. “She’s just always been the positive role model, the spark, the supporter always telling people how great Camp Hope is.”
That’s why Smith nominated Neveah, whose last name wasn’t released to the media, for the Camp HOPE America’s annual Camper of the Year Award, sponsored by the National Football League Players Association. And out of more than 5,000 campers nationwide, she won.
“I knew she was the perfect one for it,” Smith said, noting how Neveah always shows “empathy, compassion and the ability to include others, always smiling and always showing the ability to get through whatever adversity the campers found.”
The award came with a certificate for Neveah and a $1,000 check for the Family Safety Center to support next year’s summer camp.
“I like the community,” Neveah said, “and I like the counselors and how patient they are with us.”
Camp Hope America’s national director, John Hamilton, described Neveah as an example of the kind of success the program hopes to see with every camper.
“It’s always fascinating to watch the ways in which our campers are not just resilient, enduring the challengers they face, but they’re making choices to support each other or to support their peers,” Hamilton said, speaking by video conference.
“They kind of rally the team. I know I’ve witnessed this,” he said. “In the midst of those things they’re overcoming personally, individually, they mobilize their peers and continue to try challenging things.”
Former NFL running back Felix Jones Jr., drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2008 draft, told Neveah and the other campers that “everyone is a leader.”
“It’s not just one person,” Jones said, also speaking by video conference. “Everyone has the quality of leadership. It’s just how do you want to bring it out?”
Felix admitted that he was “never an outspoken person” but always “led by example.”
“You have to lead yourself and show others the way to go,” he said.
Source Credit: Michael Overall, Tulsa World. See original article here.