Camp Opportunity is a residential camp for children at risk of abuse or neglect and is located in Santa Cruz, California. Many of the campers currently live or have lived in foster care, and all come from families facing serious issues. For six days and five nights, campers enjoy a wide variety of activities amongst the redwoods, such as swimming, hiking, soccer, archery, arts and crafts, photography, and much more. Campers also participate in a unique skills building class, designed to increase self-esteem, teach problem solving skills and encourage self-expression Evening activities include an all camp Capture the Flag game and performances by such favorites as the Bubble Man. And every night ends with a campfire, skits and an energetic song session.
The kids who attend Camp Opportunity are eight to thirteen years of age and are referred by Santa Cruz County Human Services. Because our campers all come from similar backgrounds, camp is a place where using words like "foster care" is normal and coming from a family dealing with addiction or family violence is common. This makes camp a safe place for kids to be kids and know they are not alone. Our campers are in desperate need of the joyful, supportive and caring camp environment created by our staff. Many of our campers grow up to become counselors at camp, enriching the experience for everyone.
Each of our campers are specifically matched with their own individual counselor for the week of camp. This pairing provides campers the benefit of experiencing a healthy relationship with a teenager or adult who is unconditionally supportive and encouraging. Many of our counselors have also been in the foster care system and have similar life experiences as that of our campers. This provides a richer camp experience for all, in particular for campers as they have positive role models with which they can identify. This unique camper-counselor relationship is encouraged well beyond the week-long camp. Through letters, phone calls, visits and camp reunions, relationships between our volunteers and our campers grow and strengthen, developing into lifelong bonds.
There are several other staff members who volunteer for the week of camp and help keep things running smoothly. They include a nurse, the program coordinator, the program director and several class teachers. Additionally, there is always at least one social worker from Santa Cruz County Family & Children's Services at camp who provides support and guidance to staff when difficult behaviors and issues arise.