Families

Royal Family Kids serves abused, neglected kids

Water fun is part of the annual outdoor, overnight camp held by Royal Family Kids, Camps, Clubs and Mentors, which serves children 7 to 11 who have been abused and/or neglected in a variety of ways.
Water fun is part of the annual outdoor, overnight camp held by Royal Family Kids, Camps, Clubs and Mentors, which serves children 7 to 11 who have been abused and/or neglected in a variety of ways. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Kim Smith loves to tell fond stories about Royal Family Kids.

Royal Family Kids, Camps, Clubs and Mentors serves children 7 to 11 who have been abused and/or neglected in a variety of ways.

Smith, a volunteer like everyone in Royal Family Kids, and Becca Johnson are co-directors of the Bellingham branch of the organization, sponsored locally by Hillcrest Chapel. Michael Takemura, a 2012 Whitworth College graduate and a former Bellingham High sports star, is director of teen leaders.

We try to let the kids know they are loved, and to provide a positive environment where kids can have the kind of fun kids should have.

Kim Smith, Royal Family Kids volunteer

“We hold one weekly camp a year, an outdoor, overnight camp with a wide variety of activities. It’s at a location we do not disclose,” says Smith, a medical assistant with PeaceHealth. “We have clubs that meet one Saturday a month during the school year and we have a one-to-one mentor program, similar to Big Brothers, Big Sisters.” This year’s camp is June 20-24.

Smith points out that the vast majority of children served by Royal Family Kids have been involved with Child Protective Services and are now living in situations designed to keep them safer and more stable.

“There are trust issues,” says Smith. “Kids are recommended to us from a variety of adult sources. We had 58 kids at camp last year. We try to let the kids know they are loved, and to provide a positive environment where kids can have the kind of fun kids should have.”

Smith says she’ll never forget the reaction of one youngster, who was all too aware that adults were being paid to care for him.

“When he asked his counselor at Royal Family how much he was being paid, and the counselor said he was a volunteer, the kid just gave him a huge, spontaneous hug,” Smith says.

Volunteers are vetted and go through extensive training sessions every year they remain involved.

“We have such a variety of needs, so we’re always looking for volunteers 16 and older,” says Smith, who joined Royal Family 15 years ago because of “how it spoke to me.”

One of our former campers ...told us that at her first camp, she experienced more love in one week than she had in her entire life.

Kim Smith, Royal Family Kids volunteer

“Some of our adult volunteers were campers with us,” she says.

Smith will never forget a special moment during a fundraiser at Cruisin’ Coffee. The group survives entirely through donations as well as volunteer work.

“One of our former campers drove through and told us that at her first camp, she experienced more love in one week than she had in her entire life,” Smith says.

Takemura says he is always emotionally affected by the contrasts with his good fortunes in life.

“My whole family volunteers for Royal Family Kids. I have such a wonderful, loving family,” says Takemura, a chemist, while explaining why the group is so rewarding for him. “I’ve been so fortunate. I want these kids to experience some of what I‘ve experienced. We want to create positive memories.”

Smith says Royal Family Kids was started by Wayne Tesch in 1985 in Southern California and now has about 250 camps nationwide, including a dozen in Washington state, plus camps in other countries. The group has been in Bellingham since 1992, she says.

“He named it Royal Family because he wants kids to be treated like royalty,” Smith says.

The date of this year’s camp was corrected April 20, 2016.

How to help

To learn more about volunteer opportunities and how to donate to Royal Family Kids, e-mail bellinghamrfkc@gmail.com or go online to Royal Family Kids.

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