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twelve years, ten months

Here at Opportunity Camp we pair every camper up with a staff member for what we call “forest walk.” Though no one actually walks in the forest, it’s a time for one-on-one attention and conversation. Many people — both campers and staff — will often say it’s their most favorite part of camp.

My forest walker is a twelve years old, though he could pass for fifteen or sixteen. It’s his first year at Opportunity Camp and he’s already decided it’s “the best camp ever.” As far as I can tell, I believe he actually means it.

As we talked yesterday, I learned that he only recently entered the foster care system. Ten months ago, to be exact. He and his sisters moved in with foster parents and that’s how he ended up at camp. We partner with Contra Costa County social services to bring kids to camp. It’s a partnership that has endured for over forty years.

While he is enjoying camp, he also wants to be back with his parents. It’s one of the ironies of Opportunity Camp: he’s here because he’s in the social service system. If he wasn’t in the system, he wouldn’t be at camp. In other words, if he was with his parents he would likely not be here.

But he is and he’s enjoying it. I told him I’d pray for his parents and their ability to take him back in. So many of these kids are in the social service system (and thus at Opportunity Camp) because of the poor choices made by the adults in their lives. It’s heart-breaking. Yet it also reminds us why this one week matters — as tiresome, dirty, and draining it can be. It matters because it makes a difference.