SAGU hosts Royal Family Kids Camp
Waxahachie, TX – September 16, 2011 – Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) hosted its first Royal Family Kids Camp. Students and staff members volunteered the first week of July 2011 to provide a camp for abused and neglected children.
Connections with Child Protective Services and local foster care agencies enabled the camp to serve 38 children, ages six to 12, from the South Dallas area. Children attending the camp have experienced a wide range of abuse and neglect (emotional, psychological or physical abuse, witness to family violence, or victimization through human trafficking).
Other Royal Family Kids Camps are each organized by a church. This is the first camp organized by the cooperative effort of a university (SAGU) and a church (Trinity Church of Cedar Hill, TX). SAGU Professor and Camp Director Darren Daugherty said, "The efforts of SAGU and Trinity created a place where children were immersed in the love of God and volunteers were bound together in loving others as Jesus would/does.”
Thirty-four SAGU students volunteered as counselors, in addition to another five SAGU staff members and two faculty. Camp staff included 34 Trinity Church members and SAGU staff members. “Our SAGU students were absolutely amazing! I could not have asked to work with a better team. They displayed so much love, patience, and gentleness to the kids,” Daugherty said.
At the beginning of the week, the children received a “Rock Star” welcome from volunteers who were cheering and waving signs as children stepped off the bus onto the SAGU campus. The children enjoyed crafts, games, swimming, fishing, chapel times, a Fourth of July carnival, a Texas Rangers baseball game, a talent show night and a surprise birthday party. On one day of the week, the girls even received manicures and pedicures.
The camp’s purpose is to create life changing moments for abused children. It also introduces and/or reinforces a healthy family model to the children. Besides counselors, the volunteer staff includes camp "grandmas," "grandpas," "aunts," and "uncles." The camp leadership pays careful attention to protecting the children’s identity. Most often, volunteers do not know the child’s background until shortly before meeting him or her. Yet, in the safe atmosphere created at camp, many children feel free to confide in an adult for the first time.
SAGU staff member George Taylor, “Uncle G,” shares some of his interactions with a couple of the children. “One little boy asked me, ’All these people are here, and they don’t get paid? They must really love us,”’ he shared. “Another child shared how he was abused by a family member. This all hits close to home for me. I was put into foster care when I was six, so I understand what these kids are dealing with.”
Another volunteer shared, “While tucking campers in at night I asked them, ‘If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, and money was not an option, where would you go?’ One responded, ‘I would want to come here every year.’ The other camper in the room agreed.”
“One child said, ’I have had lots of birthdays but never a birthday party. I never want to leave this place,’ Taylor said. “I am so glad that these kids have this opportunity to be a part of the Royal Family Kids Camp. It not only touches the lives of the children, but it touches the hearts of the volunteers.”
“The hardest part about the camp is when the children leave,” shared Daugherty. “You wonder where they are going. What will they do? What kind of reception will they receive? Will someone love them as much as we do? But you know that you’ve given them loving memories that will last a lifetime." Each child receives a photo album at the end of camp to preserve their memories from the week.
Of the $30,000 given toward the camp this year, SAGU’s Student Missions Association (SMA) raised $17,500, and Trinity Church raised $10,000. Other services and gifts were donated by individuals and local businesses, such as It’s a Girl Thang and The Texas Rangers. Birthday gifts were donated by more than 25 individuals and SAGU’s Registrar and School of Distance Education.
Daugherty, his wife Wendy (SAGU adjunct faculty) and their three children have fostered 13 children over the past seven years. Daugherty’s resume’ includes master’s degrees in elementary education and biblical studies and a doctorate in education and family development. Daugherty and the camp leadership hopes that next year the camp will have enough volunteers and funding to invite more children. Their long-term goals include the addition of Royal Family Kids Clubs, a monthly ministry which will connect with campers throughout the year and pair them with personal mentors. They would also like to establish other camps as off-shoots from this one.
For more information about Royal Family Kids Camp of South Dallas or to contribute financially to the 2012 camp, visit www.southdallas.rfkc.org. For more information about starting a camp in your area, visit www.royalfamilykids.org.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The University was established in 1927, and now offers more than 60 associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees on campus or online. More information is available at www.sagu.edu or by calling 1-888-YES-SAGU.