Healing trauma with Camp Hope

Jul 11, 2022, 10:05 AM

SALT LAKE CITY — Children who have experienced trauma or loss can often feel like they can’t truly be a kid.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office is providing a space where they can break down those walls and create new memories. It’s called Camp Hope.

Time spent in nature can help kids heal from past trauma.

“Research shows that if you provide them with positive experiences, it can counteract that,” said Byron Paulsen, Camp Hope program manager.

At Camp Hope, kids spend a week immersed in typical camp activities.

“So, that might be arts and crafts, doing some field games up at the reservoir,” said Paulsen. “It’s been so much fun.”

They form bonds and learn coping skills from counselors who specialize in trauma-informed care.

“They just get to be kids again. They get to have their joy back into their lives,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Gill teamed up with nonprofit HOPE International to offer this free camp.

“This will also give us an opportunity to disrupt the passing of trauma from one family member generation to another,” said Gill.

“With what we’ve been experiencing as a family, just seems like the right step for us,” said Becca, whose son and daughter are attending Camp Hope.

“This is their first camp away from home so they’re both really nervous.”

Campers soon realize they’re not alone.

“Just having people you can relate to when you have trauma is so important, especially for kids,” said Allie.

Allie’s daughter is spending a second summer at Camp Hope.

“She’s gone from being a little girl to very much a bright, boisterous young woman who is a fierce social justice advocate.”

Taking the first step toward healing is the hardest, but at Camp Hope, Allie says, it’s possible.

“Look, here we are in nature. It’s beautiful and life goes on.”

Parents say the support doesn’t stop once camp is over. In addition to therapy, kids can attend workshops throughout the year, and staff members reach out to them on a monthly basis.

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