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Local Chapter of Camp HOPE America Lets Kids Be Kids

by Devyn Giannetti , Communications Specialist, Department of Communications

group of children around a camp fire at Camp HopeSome of our fondest memories come from time spent at summer camp. The warm weather brought kayaking, swimming in the lake and s’mores over a campfire with new friends and happy company.

Camp HOPE America aims to bring this same feeling to children in Cuyahoga County, through the implementation of a local chapter beginning this Sunday, August 4 at Camp Ho Mita Koda in Newbury Township.

This camp isn’t like all the others—Camp HOPE is the first camp program in Ohio tailored to children who have witnessed domestic violence. This session is part of a larger network of over 60 sites nationally, with a focus on building resiliency and helping children believe in themselves, in others, and in their dreams. Many of the 22 kids attending camp have never been before.

“These children have led difficult lives,” said Jill Smialek, Manager at the Witness/Victim Service Center and Family Justice Center. “The trauma from witnessing or being aware of domestic violence is real and can have an impact on a child’s feelings of self-worth and confidence. Camp HOPE is an evidence-based camp that aims to provide kids with an outlet where they don’t have to worry about their past or what’s going on at home while also being able to challenge themselves to try new things in a safe and encouraging environment.”

Funding for the program comes from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, through the Victim of Crime Act, as well as a planning grant from Camp HOPE America. The County is partnering with FrontLine Services, a key agency that provides services to children and families following abuse, neglect or exposure to violence. FrontLine Services helped identify children who would benefit from Camp HOPE and will also work with children throughout camp week.

children putting up the American flag at Camp Hope“The Cleveland Police Department receives over 17,000 calls a year related to domestic violence,” said Smialek. “While children may not be involved in or witness all of these incidents, we want to have a positive impact on some of the kids that are. This camp will hopefully provide a place of respite from some challenges they face, while also giving them a space to be a kid!”

Kids are provided with warm sleeping bags, toiletries, journals and other supplies for their time at camp. They will participate in activities such as swimming, canoeing, sports and small group discussions. Smialek hopes that with the anticipated success of this week’s camp, the County can expand its efforts and potentially host more camp sessions in the future.

If you are anyone you know has suffered from acts of domestic violence, sexual assault or experienced any other types of victimization, please call the Cuyahoga County Family Justice Center at 216-443-7345. If it is an emergency, you should call 9-1-1.