This July, more than twenty children, ages 7 – 13, will take a virtual pathway to hope through the annual Daniel J. Wilcox Camp HOPE NJ.

“Due to Covid-19, this year’s camping experience will look different,” says JBWS President and CEO Diane Williams. “However, the spirit, philosophy and basic structure of the camp will remain the same.”

Amber Szuch, JBWS Director of Children’s Program (pictured here with a camper in 2019) explains, “For the past three years, we took the campers to the Fairview Lake YMCA Camp where they enjoyed all the outdoor activities the camp had to offer such as swimming, boating, horseback riding, and more. See our 2019 camp highlights video.

This year, JBWS was challenged to come up with creative activities the campers could do from their homes during the weeklong daytime virtual camp. The staff and camp counselors pivoted to use online platforms to provide a combination of live and recorded content to create fun and interactive experiences for the campers. Veteran camp counselors (ages 18 – 24) will play an important role in the virtual camp experience along with some new counselors.

“We will use songs and singing as a great way for campers to get silly and release some energy,” says Szuch. “Games such as Jeopardy and Kahoot will help the campers connect and interact in a fun way; arts and craft activities will help to facilitate expression and healing; gymnastics, dancing, a sensory chalk path and a scavenger hunt will get the campers moving; creating nature mandalas and learning about plants will help them get in touch with nature; and we will do some exploring via virtual field trips to Fairview Lake YMCA as well as zoos and the planetarium.”

Prior to the week, each camper will receive a camp swag bag with a camp shirt, hat, water bottle, stress ball, activity supplies and snacks. If needed, campers will be supported with a Tablet, IPad, or laptop for the week.

Daniel J. Wilcox Camp HOPE NJ is unique in that it is about much more than fun and creativity. In line with this year’s theme “The Path to Healing,” the camp supports children, who have been impacted by domestic violence and helps them find a pathway to HOPE. Utilizing a trauma-informed lens, the mission of the program is to give youth a brighter future.

Children create affirmations that focus on positivity, strength and resiliency that they can add to their coping tool kits. Through mindfulness activities, campers learn the importance of bringing awareness to their senses, thoughts, and emotions. Campers are praised for who they are and who they are becoming as they set individual goals for themselves to try new things.

Using Fairview Lake virtual background photos, the day ends with a traditional campfire. Campers reflect on the question, “Where did you see hope today?” and share moments when they believed in themselves, others believed in them, or they pursued a challenge or dream.

“At the end,” Szuch explains, “each camper receives a Character Trait Award based on a character trait they have shown throughout the camp experience. Campers love this memento.”

The Daniel J. Wilcox Camp HOPE NJ is a Camp Hope America, Alliance for Hope International model program and the only one in the state of New Jersey.

Please consider supporting a camper and their 2020 virtual camp experience by making a secure online donation. Thank you for helping to build strong, bright futures for our children. You inspire HOPE.

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