Amachi's Week with Us
Over the course of another amazing summer, here at Life Adventure Center, we had the privilege of getting to work with various incredible groups of kids and adults alike. These groups have ranged from our open enrollment camps, to hosting Camp Kesem for kids whose families have been impacted by terminal cancer, to hosting Save A Warrior (a program which serves veterans dealing with PTSD), to groups of coworkers and students simply looking to bolster their communication skills and teamwork. These groups come to LAC looking for an opportunity to expand both their personal and team boundaries through taking on our high ropes and lows courses. Through these challenges, and the utilization of other programming areas such as equine assisted team building, we hope to instill within them a sense of resilience and help them realize how powerful and capable they are of overcoming challenges.
Our mission of instilling and inspiring resiliency coincides perfectly with that of Amachi, a one-on-one mentoring program that works with kids whose lives have been impacted by familial incarceration or live in high-crime/high-incarceration neighborhoods. During the last week of June, we had the opportunity to once again work with this incredible program and give them a week full of adventures and challenges.
“The reason we work with those kids specifically,” said Maggie Middleton, Amachi Program Director, “is because kids who have had a parent in jail also have a really high likelihood of going to jail themselves; they tend to have high rates of depression and anxiety, anger issues-- they just have a high likelihood of making negative choices. We provide them with mentors to be kind of an intervention to help encourage them to make positive choices and have goals.” Because these kids are coming from such challenging circumstances, they oftentimes don’t have a lot of opportunities other kids might be exposed to, such as summer camp. “A lot of our Amachi kids who have done LAC [camp], this is their very first camp experience,” said Middleton. “[Most of the kids] haven’t even had a glorified day-camp, and so one of the things we aim to do with Amachi is to give our kids opportunities.” And that’s where Life Adventure Center comes in. “With LAC they get to be around horses, they get to ride horses… they get to go canoeing, swimming, just lots of new opportunities,” elaborated Middleton.
During their week with us, the Amachi kids most definitely did not come up short on experiencing new opportunities. They got to work with our horses and kindled some newfound friendships with our miniature donkeys, Scout and Scooter; they were given the opportunity to try their hand at equestrian vaulting, which is essentially gymnastics on the back of a moving horse. They climbed our rock wall and fearlessly soared across our zipline; they canoed and navigated across our pond. And through all of this and more, they were able to explicate their own personal boundaries while creating new friendships with kids who are coming from similar situations. One facet of camp Middleton discussed was the shame-aspect of coming from the circumstances these kids have grown up in-- how they may not be around other kids dealing with what they’ve had to go through, and while they’re at camp, this shame-factor is lessened.
“Another thing I see [at camp],” said Middleton, “is kids challenging themselves to do things they didn’t think they could do. For a lot of kids who have been impacted by incarceration, low self-confidence is a big factor, so when they first come to camp they think “maybe I can’t walk up to that horse…” or “I can’t do that rockwall and zipline,” so I’ve seen LAC be a really safe place for them to try new things… [where] they’ve got some staff and some really loving people who are gently encouraging them to try things to they’ve maybe never tried before.”
From the perspective of our staff, this change in confidence is evident. Seasonal staff, intern Megan Patrick, who worked closely with the Amachi kids while they were with us, had much to say about their transformation over the course of their week of adventures. “I thought it was really, really nice to see the kids change throughout the week in their confidence levels and different aspects of life because a lot of them came in feeling pretty confident in different areas… but throughout the week, they gained confidence in different areas, like with equine and the things we asked of them with the ropes course and the low initiatives” said Patrick. “It was really nice to see how proud they were to understand that they had changed as well.” Middleton went on to say that seeing the lessons these kids learn in resiliency is something that overwhelms her.
One of the campers, Don, also had much to say about his time here at Life Adventure Center. “I really did love camp, and I learned how to solve my problems and not get angry,” said Don. “My favorite activity was the giant swing because I liked going all the way to the top and then swinging all the way back into the trees.” Don said he’s planning on coming back next year.
Camp Kesem's Week with Us
The heart of the Bluegrass is a special place for anyone looking for their own piece of tranquility and escape from a world that can oftentimes feel overwhelming. Nestled within the natural beauty of central Kentucky, we here at Life Adventure Center are no strangers to being the vessel that offers this escape in nature to those who need it most. To kick off the summer, LAC had the privilege of hosting Camp Kesem for its first ever visit to Kentucky for a week filled with outdoor adventures, loose teeth, swimming, bottle rockets, birthdays and opportunities for kids dealing with tough times to create a second family among their newfound peers.
“Camp Kesem is a place for kids who are dealing with a lot at home to feel like they have a second support system, a second family, a way to get away from all of their stressors and the things that scare them,” said Camp Director Sarah Landers. Specifically, Camp Kesem works with children whose families have been impacted by cancer. Yet, Kesem wasn’t created with the intention of being a depressing, downtrodden place. “It’s not here to be something sad for them [the campers], but when we come here, we want to have fun,” Landers elaborated. “We want these kids to feel like they’re having a break from everything that worries them, so this isn’t something to be sad about-- this is something to know that you have a family here.”
With these kids dealing with such seemingly insurmountable challenges, one of the main focuses for Kesem is to empower its campers in teaching them that they’re not alone and, of course, to be resilient. Here at Life Adventure Center, that’s exactly what we love to help with. “Our mission of serving underserved youth and instilling self-confidence, resiliency, and leadership skills lines up directly with Camp Kesem’s mission of helping kids build resiliency in troubling situations like having a parent with cancer,” said Program Director Byron Marlowe. “This is a program that we are very honored to host and look forward to hosting again in the future.”
During their time here, the campers were given opportunities to climb the rockwall, zipline, swim, explore, and even show off their skills in a talent show. Yet, the most impactful thing they will take back with them is that they are not alone in their challenges-- and more importantly, they are powerful enough to conquer them.