From June sixth to tenth, Cherokee Family Violence Center held our first summer camp for the children who reside in our transitional housing program. The five day long camp was filled with fun, mindfulness and relaxation. We had a total of 11 campers participate in our first week of camp, with another group scheduled to participate later this summer. Each day began with meditation and ended with journaling and meditation, facilitated by Candace Pranger, our Teen Advocate. In between, campers participated in discussion on different topics, and participated in activities and field trips.

The first day of camp was exciting! We introduced mindfulness to the campers and gave them their own camp bag filled with goodies. We used a mindfulness jar activity to show how busy our minds can be and started the discussion of settling our minds. We tie-dyed the children’s camp shirts colors correlating to positive emotions. Many campers used emotions including “happiness,” “kindness,” “blessed,” and “confident.” During the activity, one of the campers thought their tied shirt looked like a pony tail so the girls helped him with his new do. Everyone had a great laugh. Campers enjoyed Zaxby’s for lunch and after, lunch did yoga with Ms. Lisa, a volunteer. The campers enjoyed the different movements and activities Ms. Lisa taught them. We ended the day with “letting our mind jars settle.”

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The next day we started off with a feelings game and learning about ANTS, Automatic Negative Thoughts. During the feelings game, the campers acted out an emotion and the others had to guess what the emotion was. After, the campers learned about the nine ANTS and ways we can gain control over our moods. To complete our busy morning, we headed off to Sips N Strokes; learning and painting was quite relaxing and enjoyable. (The children all returned the next day to brag about the new picture they had hung in their room.) After lunch, we went to TaeKwonDo with Master Kim, which the campers really loved. We finished up the afternoon with a compassion activity and discussed different ways we feel about a friends, strangers, and enemies.

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On the third day, we checked out the Green Acres Equestrian Center. We all got to groom and lead the horses, Mr. Joe Cool and Ms. Dream Angel. Dream Angel even showed off her ballet moves! We enjoyed the tour of the farm and seeing how much work goes into caring for a horse. After we left, we had lunch and spent the afternoon discussing gratitude and practicing empathy. Brooke Larson, our Family Support Coordinator, led an activity during which each of the campers and facilitators went around the circle expressing one thing they were grateful for. For each item named, the child or facilitator placed a pipe cleaner in the middle of the circle — by the end of the activity, we had a large pile to represent our gratitude.

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On the fourth day of camp, we did Taylor Foerst, a CFVC Family Advocate’s favorite activity, “bucket fillers.” She introduced bucket fillers with the story, How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids, a book by Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton and Mary Reckmeyer. After she read the story, we headed over to Autumn Leaves, an assisted living facility. We made dreamcatchers with many of the residents living there — this was many of our campers’ favorite activities. When we returned to home base, the campers were surprised with pizza from Uncle Maddio’s of Canton. After we cleaned our faces of pizza sauce, we went back to TaeKwonDo for another lesson. After TaeKwonDo, we completed our bucket filler activity. We challenged each child to fill someone’s bucket every day, which translates to making appositive impact on others around us.

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On the last day of camp, we went straight to the Art Barn, an interactive barn complete with a petting zoo, hay ride and art session. The campers loved the show put on by the pig that could bow! We ended our time at the Art Barn with a picnic. We stopped off at Dairy Queen to cool off with some blizzards then went to Etowah River Park. We explored their nature trail and did a Rainbow Walk, during which campers found items to match the colors of the rainbow. After the walk, the campers wrote thank letters to all the people and organizations that assisted with our camp. We recognized all the campers with a completion certificate.

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We are appreciative of our advocates, Brooke, Taylor and Candace for organizing this exciting event for the children in our program and loved seeing the campers so excited and full of energy every day. We look forward to growth of our camp in future summers and bringing similar experiences to new campers each year. We are also excited to offer this camp again in July for a new group of campers. We thank our generous donors and partners who made this camp possible, including Zaxby’s of Riverstone Parkway, Publix of Rose Creek, Uncle Maddio’s of Canton, Target, WalMart, Autumn Leaves of Towne LakeMaster Kim’s TaeKwonDo, and the Art Barn.