Therapeutic Camps to Help Panhandle Children With Emotional Impact of Oil Spill
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Children experiencing anxiety and uncertainty in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill will have the opportunity to share their concerns and learn how to cope with the effects of the disaster at a series of camps sponsored by Lutheran Services Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The first two camps will be in Pensacola July 26-30. Three additional camps will be held August 2-6, August 9-13 and August 16-20. Others will be scheduled as needed. Weekend camps also will be held in the fall after the start of school. The camps are free to eligible children in grades kindergarten through six.
Camp Beyond the Horizon will allow children in the Panhandle whose families have been affected by the oil spill to process their experiences and express emotions such as grief, fear and anger in a safe and supportive environment, said Sam Sipes, president and CEO of Lutheran Services. The camps, expected to host 50 children each session, will be held in churches and community centers.
"The oil spill has traumatized children and overwhelmed their capacity to cope and articulate their feelings," Sipes said Friday at a press conference at Lutheran Services offices in Pensacola. "After a disaster, children may show distress through regressive behaviors – unwanted thoughts, fears, withdrawal, sleep disturbances or physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches. Unresolved emotions make it difficult for some to concentrate and succeed in school."
Camp Beyond the Horizon includes a five-day curriculum developed by Lutheran Services experts in children’s mental health, early childhood learning and disaster recovery. The camp consists of two phases. The first is specifically designed for children in kindergarten through sixth grade for the remaining weeks of the school summer break. Phase two will provide the same services to the same age group and will begin in the fall after school starts. The camps will be held over two consecutive weekends.
"This is a wonderful example of a community partner stepping forward to answer a very real need," said DCF Secretary George Sheldon. "The impact of this oil spill has a far-reaching impact beyond the environmental and economic issues we’ve seen. The emotional strain on families is just as real and as devastating. Children need a way to talk through their feelings about the changes they are facing and these camps will provide that."
In addition to helping children cope with the emotional aspect of the spill, the camps will:
- Educate them about the oil spill and its impact on Gulf Coast residents
- Help children identify ways the oil spill has affected their family
- Help children become aware of and share their feelings
- Raise awareness of age-appropriate coping strategies, community resources for help and hope for the future
The camp will be paid for through private donations and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding where eligibility has been established. Children from Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla and Jefferson counties will be among the participants.
The first four camps in Pensacola will be held:
- July 26-30, Grace Lutheran Church St. Paul Lutheran Church
- July 26-30, St. Paul Lutheran Church
- August 2-6, Grace Lutheran Church
- August 9 - 13, Community Life Center, Gulf Breeze.
- August 16-20, St. Luke Methodist Church
To learn about volunteer and staff positions or to register your child for camp, please contact Lutheran Services Florida at 850-453-2772 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.