PROVO, Utah — A new kind of Utah summer camp for kids recently wrapped up it’s first multi-day experience for kids.
Camp Hope was created by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and the Children’s Justice Center for kids ages 8-17 who have been the victims, or witnesses of crime.
“We wanted to create a moment where they could just be children,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
Camp activities included activities like fishing, arts and crafts, and campfires; but all events and activities were overseen by trauma-informed counselors.
“These children have undergone some of the most painful horrific things that you and I can imagine, and they have had to grow up faster,” said Gill.
Gill says members of his staff have personal connections to the dozens of kids invited to the camp, and collectively, they’re on a mission to re-examine what “justice” means for the most innocent of victims.
“This is an internalization, a new way of doing this work,” Gill said.
While the first full Camp Hope experience took place this summer, the organizers have been hosting one-off activities and day camps for a couple of years.
“He’s become a more normal kid now,” said Tony Adams who is raising a boy taking part in Camp Hope.
Another parent of a Camp Hope attendee, Lyndsay Privett, says her child is gaining confidence and independence with the help of the camp and the ongoing interactions of the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office.
“It just means a lot to me that there’s a program that helps him out in ways that we can’t,” Privett said.
Gill believes the camp can help children who’ve experienced trauma, by allowing them to build positive memories.
“The research shows us that children have incredible plasticity in their brain,” Gill said.
Camp Hope is paid for by Gill’s office, and he hopes to expand the program to include more kids, and other kinds of year-round support, especially when it comes to education.
“So, providing tutorial services of science math, English, social sciences.” Gill said.