By Bonnie Culverhouse
Royal Family Kids Camp of Minden is a mission – a mission for the director, a mission for the counselors, a mission for the campers – a mission of love.
In an undisclosed area near Minden since 2016, the week-long annual camp for foster kids ages 6-12 gives them something most have never experienced.
“I tell people it’s a mission field in our own backyard,” Volunteer Director Sandra Samuel said.
The kids register in town and then travel by bus to the camp.
“The first year I met the bus, I was overwhelmed,” Samuel said. “I know what these kids have been through, and I know what they are about to get, and I know it’s going to change their lives.”
All the kids receive gifts, and all of the gifts are meaningful, she said.
“The blanket is for security, the duffle bag is because most kids bring their things in trash bag,” she said. “Then they get a T-shirt when they arrive and another when they leave. The water bottle is just because we want them to stay hydrated.”
Most importantly, each receives a Bible because this is a faith-based initiative. One of the gift items includes a lesson book to ensure all campers learn about Jesus Christ.
Each day is scheduled to have time learning about Christ, then adventures with a volunteer who takes the kids fishing, swimming, treats and snacks. There are wood-working classes, and new this year – a banquet.
“We are looking for dresses for the girls – we have a few,” Samuel said. “And we are trying to figure out a way to rent tuxes for the boys. I think this will be so special – an opportunity for them to dress up, probably for the first time in their lives.”
Samuel said there must be one volunteer counselor per two children. The youngest age is 16, but there’s no ceiling on the age limit. She said there are some they call Grandma and Grandpa.
Counselors are all volunteers, but they never pay – nor do families of any of the children.
“It’s a life-changing experience for the counselors, too,” Samuel said. “Some of them have moved away from the area, yet still come back just for this.”
Samuel said cost is around $700 per person, which includes insurance, food and lodging, entertainment and all the gift items for the kids.
“While removing a child from abuse and placing them in a safe environment may be necessary, it is hardly ever easy on a child – most times it is very painful,” Samuel said. “Can you just imagine what this one week can do for a child?”
All potential volunteers are required to fill out an application, background check, attend an interview and take 12 hours of training.
Donations and volunteers are vital. There are volunteer applications on the camp’s Facebook page.
To donate, please write your check to Minden Royal Family Kids Camp, 301 Pennsylvania Ave., Minden, LA 71055.
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