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Build it, they'll come

Foster children connect to life at revamped camp

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 13/03) - From a distance, they look like normal kids: at camp during their summer vacation.

But these are foster children, whose lives are anything but normal.

Camp Connections gives them a chance to be free of the city for a week. The only decision they need to make is which counsellor to splash with river water next.

The Yellowknife Foster Family Association started the camp this year, after Northwestel Cable approached them with funding for such a program.

Antler becomes a phoenix

The four counsellors spent July putting new roofs on cabins and building bunk beds at the Tree of Peace's Camp Antler, on the Cameron River just off the Ingraham Trail.

The location hadn't been used as a camp for 12 years, except by partyers who had left the place a mess.

"The camp is designed to specifically meet their needs," says Anne Kennedy, executive director for the Foster Family Association.

The parent-less kids spend the day making dreamcatchers, playing games and swimming -- their favourite activity.

Their special needs range from fetal alcohol syndrome to attention deficit disorder.

Their days are busy because "they respond best to structure. It gives them security," says Kennedy.

The children, aged seven to 12 years, learn life skills at the camp. They are often lacking basic skills they will need later in life, according to Kennedy.

The kids take a break from hoofing a ball around to sit in the sand and chat.

"I don't want to go home," says nine-year-old Vanessa. This is her first time at an overnight camp, and she loves it.

Tiffany is eight years old and a gregarious little girl. She misses her friends at the Territorial Treatment Centre in Yellowknife, but enjoys the camp.

"We get to splash the teachers," she says with a giggle.

The Foster Family Association is hoping to offer the camp annually.

For now, the children head back to their foster families in the city, carefree as they should be.