“I learned that there is a path for me that is all my own. I was reminded that I am a valuable person who is worthy of love and grace.”

Those are the words of a Connecticut teen who attended Camp Hope, a summer camp for children from 5 and 17 who have been sexually or physically abused.

The Darien Domestic Abuse Council is once again seeking donations for Camp Hope, which is sponsored by the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport.

The drive runs from June 15 to July 15.

Camp Hope is free and open to any child in Connecticut, and offers them the opportunity for a child to have a positive and life changing experience.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, sleepaway camp at Camp Hi-Rock in Massachusetts will not be held this year. However, campers will attend day camp at Camp Tepee in Monroe from Aug 3 to 7.

Donation list

Items that are needed, which must be new, are the following:

 Beach Towels

 Backpacks

 Water bottles

 Flip flops, boys and girls

 Bug spray

 Suntan lotion

 Mesh bags for wet bathing suits

 Bathing suits, boys and girls

 Gift cards to Target or Walmart

 New T-shirts and shorts

In addition, monetary donations are needed to coordinate transportation and many other details involving campers.

Due to the pandemic, the DDAC is requesting all contributions be held until there is an appropriate location to drop them off. Those who would like to arrange a pick-up of the items, or make a monetary donation, can send an email to DDACINC06820@gmail.com or visit the Darien Domestic Abuse Council’s website at WWW.DDACINC06820.org.

To view a video of Camp Hope, click here.

The need

Last year, the DDAC ran a drive “to help these children, who come with nothing, have the supplies that should be available to all children,” said Rita Bailey, executive director of the Darien Domestic Abuse Council, Inc.

According to Bailey, children that come from inner cities are at a much higher rate of experiencing abuse. Additionally, victims of sexual or physical abuse have a higher risk of becoming abusers themselves.

“These children thank you. You are giving them the chance to swim in a lake for the first time, and so much more,” Bailey said. “As advocates against domestic violence, we want to teach all children what healthy relationships are. Only then can we begin to break the cycle of violence.”

Bailey said she hopes to organize a collection every year for Camp Hope.

Camp activities

Activities campers will participate in include swim instruction, boating, mini-golf, high and low ropes/team building, arts and crafts, archery, and sports.

The Camp Hope curriculum focuses on celebrating heroes in history, and reinforcing positive stories of individuals that teach diversity, inspiration and courage.

Letter of thanks

A teenage girl thanks Sasha Collins, Camp HOPE Coordinator & Youth Trauma Specialist, for her summer at Camp Hope.

Dear Miss Sasha,

I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to attend camp this summer. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. When I first started to learn about Camp Hope, I was very unsure. Going away to camp meant that I would have to leave my mother and two brothers at home. Because I’m older (16) than my brothers who are 8 and 9, I often have to take care of them.

A lot of times, I can’t do things that my teenage friends are doing because I have to make sure that my brothers are fed and asleep in bed at a reasonable time for school. I already feel so lucky because I have a scholarship to a great school in my town and I didn’t know if I deserved to go to camp. At home, I have a job on the weekends. I work every Sunday cleaning the barber shop so I can pay for my school lunches. I love the peace of going to school. The meals are the best. Sometimes I eat all of my meals at school. I was wondering how I was going to eat at Camp Hope.

When I met some of the other kids going to Camp Hope I was not really sure if I would be able to make friends. We are all kind of different - so I thought. Soon it was pretty clear that we are a lot the same.

What I loved about Camp Hope was that I learned that there are more kids like me. I learned that I have a choice every day to live my best life. I learned that there is a path for me that is all my own. I learned that I can resolve conflict with calm conversation and that I cannot control the actions of others. I was reminded that I am a valuable person who is worthy of love and grace. I did not have to work or worry about paying for meals. I did not have to worry at all.

At camp, I made friends with kids that I would never normally have the opportunity to meet. We got on the bus as a group of strangers — but we came home a group of stronger, brighter, and empowered friends.

I am so excited for the Camp Hope reunion in September and I hope that I will be invited to return next year.

Thank you to everyone who made this possible for my friends and me.

DDAC mission

According to its website, the mission of the DDAC is to promote the education, awareness, and prevention of domestic abuse in the community of Darien by providing education on domestic violence and on the services available to victims as well as their families through programs and events, and to foster positive interpersonal relationships in the community and provide local families tools to resolve conflict during exigent stress-points in their lives.

sfox@darientimes.com