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Camp Thrive serves middle-schoolers whose lives have been touched by addiction-related loss or trauma

Camp Thrive serves middle-schoolers whose lives have been touched by addiction-related loss or trauma
Cindy Pehl talks about the influence of her late husband Douglas Metz as she speaks to campers and their families at Camp Thrive in Westminster Friday, July 19, 2019. The Douglas E. Metz Camp Thrive foundation provides funding for the camp. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

During the school year, those who work in the schools see the ripple effects of addiction on students. A weekend camp was designed to address some of their needs during the summer months

Camp Thrive, being held for the first time this year, is designed to be a supportive space for middle-schoolers whose home lives have been touched by addiction or by addiction-related loss or trauma.

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Kelly Snyder, a pupil personnel worker in CCPS, said the impetus for creating the camp was part of ongoing efforts to support students.

“What can we do in summer when they’re out of the school building?” she asked.

Those who worked with students inside and outside the schools — pupil personnel workers like Snyder or counselors for example — identified the students who might benefit from the camp.

“Camp Thrive is focused on breaking stigmas and building resilience,” according to the camp’s brochure.

The staff of the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office partnered with Carroll County Public Schools to offer funding for the camp through drug forfeiture funds.

The Carroll County Youth Services Bureau sent counselors to join the staff. Kate Swisher Lee, program director of Substance Abuse Services with the Youth Service Bureau, played a major part in the planning and organization of the camp, Snyder said.

Gina Felter, principal of Outdoor School, and her staff are volunteering their time to run the outdoor activities like canoeing, fishing, a night hike, and time on their ropes course. The camp, which started Friday night, takes place at Hashawha Environmental Center through Sunday.

Counseling in coping skills and stress management is designed to help the campers build a “toolbox” for dealing with the challenges in their home lives.

“What we hope to do is just lift them up and be able to provide a sense of support,” Snyder said.

Part of this is the to-go bags for the campers, which will include information about local resources as well as contact information for the staff at the camp. Later, if the camper needs to contact one of the professionals they have made a connection with over the time of the camp, they will be able to do so.

Professional therapists, school counselors, pupil personnel workers and counselors from the Carroll County Youth Services Bureau are among those that populate the staff. A member of staff from every middle school in the county will be present.

Snyder and company don’t discount the importance of the traditional summer camp activities in providing stability and fun.

“We want them to be able to get away for the weekend, take time outside in the natural world,” she said.

CCPS Superintendent Steve Lockard spoke with Judy Klinger, supervisor of school counseling for CCPS, and Snyder during his regular “Report Card on Education" program. He said it was important for students to know “that they are not alone, that there are resources out there that they can access. ... Providing information, education and the chance to build relationships with trusted adults is critically important as we as a county, as a state fight this opioid epidemic, as well as any substance abuse issue that a family may be going through.”

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In addition to funding through the State’s Attorney’s Office, the program was funded by donations from the Douglas E. Metz Foundation. Cindy Pehl heads the foundation in memory of her husband, an advocate for education. It is managed under the Community Foundation for Carroll County.

State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said he reached out to Pehl because the camp was something Metz, whom they lost to cancer just over a year ago, would have been passionate about. He would have been out here playing kickball with us, DeLeonardo said.

To DeLeonardo, the camp is a a strong continuation of the Handle with Care program, another collaboration between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the school system.

Through that program, law enforcement can notify school counseling services when a child has been present for a traumatic event that they respond to, such as an overdose.

Of the camp he said: “Not only is it hopefully hitting people who have experienced this trauma, to get those skills so they don’t go down the same path ... but also it establishes a positive relationship between schools and and law enforcement and the students, whose only experience with law enforcement may have been [during] something negative.”

Those who know a child who may benefit from a future camp should reach out to the student’s school counselor.

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