UTAH

Breaking the cycle of violence with Camp Hope

Aug 4, 2022, 4:02 PM
Camp Hope...
FILE: River guide Jeremiah McFerrin secures a raft as Camp Hope Utah program manager Julianna Potter and campers get in before rafting the Weber River in Henefer, Summit County (Laura Seitz/Deseret News)
(Laura Seitz/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Lots of us went to summer camp when we were kids – Scout camp, sports camp, church camp, arts camp, and others. There was a camp for just about every interest. Now, there is one more option! 

Camp Hope is for kids and teenagers who have been impacted by cases prosecuted by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office.

This week, KSL at Night invited Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on the show to introduce us to Camp Hope.

Continuity of care — the origins of Camp Hope

Gill said that the idea for Camp Hope came about after the realization that vulnerable young people weren’t being served after their cases went through court.

“In 2019, Blake Nakamura, who’s one of my chief deputies, created a stand-alone division within the DA’s office called the Victim Support Services Division,” Gill said. “It’s fully staffed by victims’ advocates.”

Gill said that the DA’s office realized that historically, they complete their cases, tell the victims, “good luck with everything,” and then move on.

“But where was the continuity of care?” Gill asked. “How do we give hope and justice to the most vulnerable?”

Gill’s office did some research and decided to partner with Camp Hope America. “The idea is this,” Gill said, “children, in their developmental time, will be impacted by this trauma, and subsequent intergenerational passing of trauma and subsequent criminality, but they also have incredible resiliency and neuroplasticity.”

Letting children be children

The idea behind Camp Hope is to let children be children, enjoy summer activities, and have the support of counselors. “We have children here who can look out their window and see the mountains but have never gone to them,” Gill said.  The District Attorney’s office fully funds the camp so there is no charge to the children or their families.

And, the DA’s investment in these children goes beyond Camp Hope. “The commitment that we made with these children and their families is year round,” Gill said. “We’re making contact with these children on a monthly basis.”

The research shows that “people who are cycling through the criminal justice system already had these adverse childhood experiences,” Gill said. “So, we’re not just trying to build resiliency, we’re trying to interrupt the passing down of intergenerational trauma.

We’re seeing that joy come back into a child’s life, and then that healing is not only for that child, but for the extended family, as well.”

The program welcomes volunteers and other forms of support.

Sim Gill faces Republican candidate Danielle Ahn in the general election in November.

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Breaking the cycle of violence with Camp Hope