Share the Love Ocala hosts summer camps for abused or neglected children in the foster care system.
The 6-year-old girl had been acting like a horse all week—neighing and galloping. She seemed to love being at the lake, but her counselors soon learned that getting her to engage in any activity was hopeless.
Tiffany Bagasan and Kim DeHart, director and co-director of the Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) and board members of Share the Love Ocala, remember the girl as being unable to break out of her pretend world the first few years she came to camp. Yet, in her last year, the girl who had once hidden under tables performed on stage in a talent show in front of almost 200 people.
This camper’s story is one of 60 that happens each year at the weeklong overnight summer camp that focuses on sharing God’s love with abused or neglected kids in the foster care system.
RFKC, Teen Reach Adventure Camp (TRAC) and the TRAClife mentorship program are all Ocala chapters of national camps and are under the nonprofit Share the Love Ocala. Bagasan became the director of RFKC in 2012, three years after the first camp took place in Ocala. She and others began Share the Love in 2013, which DeHart joined in 2015.
The goal for both camps, Bagasan says, is “to bring in kids who are disconnected from families, who’ve had trauma, into connection with positive adults who celebrate them and care for them.”
With RFKC, kids ages 7 to 11 can participate in water activities, have their own birthday party (some for the first time in their life), go to a carnival, run an obstacle course with counselors and perform in a talent show.
TRAC, for ages 12 to 15, is a three-day camp for girls followed by a three-day camp for boys. The camps revolve around courses fit with low ropes and climbing walls where kids earn handmade beads for rising to physical and emotional challenges.
“TRAC is basically focused around their time on the challenge course,” DeHart says, “so it’s teaching them how to overcome obstacles, how to work together as a team.”
RFKC boasts around 100 adult staffers, 25 teen volunteers and 60 kids; TRAC has about 50 adult staffers and 25 youth in each camp. TRAClife carries the relationships they form at camp into the rest of the year.
Share the Love Ocala’s only fundraiser is an annual business breakfast, which will be held September 30th at the College of Central Florida. The nonprofit is otherwise sustained by private donations. Community members can volunteer to help with a camp or provide necessities for campers. OS
For more information, go to sharetheloveocala.com