Royal Family Kids' Camp begins May 31

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Camp offers fun, loving, family setting for foster children

Royal Family Kids' Camp will be hosting its summer camp May 31 to June 4, and with it comes lots of fun activities and love for local foster children.

Two weeks before the camp, from May 6-8, a three-day garage sale will be held at the Family Life Center in Cassville to raise funds for the camps' operations.

The one-week camp, designed for foster children and other at-risk children from ages 7-11, is part of a network of nationwide camps, and offers fun activities in a non-competitive, non-threatening, family atmosphere that recognizes the needs of abused, neglected and abandoned children.

Each child is paired with an adult counselor, and all staff are volunteers who have been screened and trained to work with children in the dependency care system.

"We work with the Department of Family Services [for Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties]," said Max Akers, camp director. "The majority of our clients are referred by DFS. The children do anything and everything they would do at any other summer camp, like swimming, archery, crafts, there's a talent show, take walks out in nature, song time, Bible study, etc. But, unlike your regular kids' camp where they may have one adult to several kids, ours is a much more intensive situation, because a lot of the kids are very guarded.

"When they go here, they have one counselor to every two kids, so basically, it's a 1:1 ratio with all of our support staff included, for the protection of our staff as well as our kids."

Akers said one of the biggest priorities of the camp is to set a family atmosphere in everything they do, to compensate for the lack of family situations the children have not had.

"We spend a lot of small group time, and we try to do everything in a family-type setting," he said. "We have [non-biological] aunts and uncles, and grandma and grandpa figures. Everything we try to do is get a family setting to help a broken family that's been lost. For instance, if we have older, retired volunteers, they are referred to as 'grandma and grandpa.' When we eat, we do it in a family-style, all around the table, so it's some of the things they may have never had. It's a much more tighter-knit setting than open-type activities you typically get at a regular church camp."

Another priority is helping the young campers feel safe and secure.

"Because of the nature of our clientele, we don't openly publicize our camp," Akers said. "The ministry uses a local and secured camp facility. It's also much more secured for their benefit, and at the same time, anything they may say, which kids who go to a regular camp may not understand, it's not going to offend anyone because other children have already been there themselves."

Although Akers works full-time as a school teacher, and his wife, Emily, as a homemaker, he said directing the camp, in its eighth year of operation, is what they've been called to do.

"It's what we feel the Lord has led us to do," he said. "To care for those we feel have not had the same love of Christ that we have had. A lot of kids come with baggage and we give them Christ's unconditional love."

To that end, one practical way they show that love is through a special camp activity not found in a typical summer camp -- a birthday party where everyone's invited.

"It's called everyone's birthday party," Akers said. "We pull out the formal dresses and jackets and we have a birthday party for them, and everybody gets gifts. That's another thing we do through our donation system. Maybe someone isn't able to sponsor a child, but can do a birthday box. It's another way to help and show these kids that they are loved regardless of what they've seen or been a part of in their past."

There is no cost for children or staff to attend camp, however, actual camp costs total about $500 per child. Therefore, the Akers ask for individuals, churches and community organizations to prayerfully consider sponsoring a child.

Once a child attends, they're welcome to return each summer.

"Once they're in, they're there until they age out," Akers said. "We've had at least two who've come back as staff. It made that much of an impact on their lives that they wanted to return and help kids as well."

For more information about the camp, to sponsor a child, or make a donation to the camp or garage sale, people may call Max or Emily Akers at 417-844-4280, or email them at: cassvillerfkc@yahoo.com.

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