About 10 miles north of downtown Frederick, located in the Tuscarora Creek Watershed, there is a place where kids diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities find comradery among one another. At Camp Journey, a recreation-based youth respite program, children 11-17 learn how to manage their behavior through play. “We use games to help kids develop social skills like team work and taking turns through the use of recreation,” said Claudia Weakland, Director of Child and Adolescent Programs for Way Station, Inc. “They learn how to be friends in a safe environment.”
Offered year –round, families can determine the amount of time needed at Camp Journey; kids can stay for a few hours a day or as long as a weekend twice a month. There is no set length of time for participation as long as kids stay within the criteria for eligibility. “Families with children diagnosed with a mental illness face many challenges and often feel like ‘I can’t do this anymore’. We are here to give caretakers a break. Whether it’s taking another kid to soccer without worry or just taking time to reenergize,” said Weakland.
Campers on the other hand get exposed to countless activities designed to teach them coping mechanisms that they can use at home and school. They aren’t lacking choices either, Camp Journey is fully equipped indoors with craft supplies, foosball, ping pong and pool tables as well as a teen-appropriate video and book library. Outside, you can set your heart on a game of basketball, take a shot at gardening or relax with friends around a fire pit. There’s more, recreation activities include but are not limited to trips to museums, swimming, camping, attending professional ball games, snow tubing, roller skating and fishing.
Camp Journey is all fun and games but kids are also expected to help their adult mentors with chores too. “Kids do help with meal preparation, sweeping, taking out the trash and other housekeeping duties,” said Dave Evason, Manager of Respite Services for Camp Journey “Parents are really happy to hear about that part too.” The combined work and play help promote open communication, relationship building and problem solving skills.
A strength-based program, Camp Journey facilitators promote resiliency and directors attended a break-through collaborative that helped them put resiliency practices in place. Some core concepts of this approach are sense of competency, caring & respect of self & others, problem solving & coping skills, optimism & hope for the future, ability to reframe stress and sense of purpose & meaning.
There is also a Parent Support Group giving parents and guardians an opportunity to interact with others facing similar challenges.
Camp Journey accepts medical assistance but insurance doesn’t cover camp services. If you are interested in donating to their scholarship program, please call for more information.
Here’s a list of additional adolescent respite programs available through the county:
The Arc of Frederick County
Daybreak Community Church
Frederick Community Developmental Center
PERKS: Partnership for Emotionally Resilient Kids