Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

New Day Camp offers volunteer opportunities


New Day campers have opportunities to participate in many activities, like challenge courses, swimming in Lake Texoma, crafts, sports, and more. There’s also time to relax and read, and prayer is part of the day’s adventures. Submitted photos.

Children whose parents are incarcerated carry more than backpacks to school every day. They also carry trauma, loss, stigma, and more. According to the National Institute of Justice Journal’s 2017 article, Hidden Consequences: The Impact of Incarceration on Dependent Children, children whose parents are incarcerated are at an increased risk for challenges like “psychological strain, antisocial behavior, suspension or expulsion from school, economic hardship, and criminal activity.”  

New Day Camp, hosted by Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries (CJAMM), is a completely fee-free camp for children, ages eight to 14, whose parent or parents are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated. Programs like the New Day Camp seek to mitigate the risk factors for affected children, and to improve their prospects.

Campers experience an overnight camp in a natural setting at Cross Point Camp on the shores of Lake Texoma. In addition to the usual camp activities, like worship, sports, crafts, swimming, water sports, and a ropes challenge course, New Day campers are also offered an opportunity to socialize with children who have had similar life experiences, to process their feelings with a trained counselor, and to find support that will last all the way into adulthood.

Since 1995, CJAMM has hosted the camp, which also includes free transportation to the camp site, provides bedding and hygiene items to use during and after camp, plus a pair of sneakers provided by a donor.

The number of children included in the camp is based on the number of volunteers available, since the camp works to keep a ratio of at least one adult for every two campers. This means that the more volunteers who pitch in, the more children can be served by New Day Camp’s programs. The camps, which start June 5 and run through June 9, with a required training day on June 4, are broken into two camps – camp one for ages eight to 11, and camp two for ages 12 to 14. Youth can serve as LiTs (Leaders in Training) at the camps.

To make this happen, volunteers are needed to serve as camp nurses, counselors, recreation and craft leaders, swim instructors, drivers, and more. Camp planners have promised to find a way to put any volunteers to work.

An important note is that most campers are trauma-exposed, so volunteers should expect to be flexible and not afraid of working with kids who may be struggling. All volunteers must complete a background screening and provide references, and will have to complete in-person and online training. Volunteers are asked to register by May 21.

Anyone who is interested in volunteering should register online here. Questions may be directed to Kristin Terrell-Wilkes at office@cjamm.org.


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