Healing trauma with Camp Hope

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SALT LAKE CITY — Children who have experienced trauma or loss can often feel like they can’t really be a child.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office provides a space where they can tear down those walls and create new memories. It’s called Camp Hope.

Time spent in nature can help children heal from past trauma.

“Research shows that if you provide them with positive experiences, it can counteract that,” said Byron Paulsen, Camp Hope program manager.

At Camp Hope, children spend a week immersed in typical camp activities.

“So it could be arts and crafts, doing field games at the tank,” Paulsen said. “It’s been so much fun.”

They form bonds and learn coping skills from counselors who specialize in trauma-informed care.

“They become children again. They find their joy in their lives,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Gill has partnered with the non-profit organization HOPE International to offer this free camp.

“It will also give us the opportunity to disrupt the transmission of trauma from one generation of family members to another,” Gill said.

“With what we’ve been through as a family, this seems like the right step for us,” said Becca, whose son and daughter attend Camp Hope.

“It’s their first camp away from home, so they’re both very nervous.”

Campers quickly realize that they are not alone.

“Just having people you can relate to when you have trauma is so important, especially for kids,” Allie said.

Allie’s daughter is spending a second summer at Camp Hope.

“She has grown from a little girl to a bright and vocal young woman who is a strong advocate for social justice.”

Taking the first step toward healing is the hardest part, but at Camp Hope, Allie says, it is possible.

“Look, we are here in nature. It’s beautiful and life goes on.

Parents say the support doesn’t stop once camp is over. In addition to therapy, children can attend workshops throughout the year and staff members contact them monthly.

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