BEAUREGARD PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Abuse, neglect, pain: the wounds children in foster care experience can cut unimaginably deep.
That is why a summer camp was created solely with the purpose of showing these children love and the time of their lives.
Royal Family Kids Camp gives foster children between the ages of 6-12 one week of positive memories and for the first time ever, Southwest Louisiana will host one of the camps this summer.
Kimberly Marler began volunteering as a Royal Family Kids Camp counselor three years ago and is now the director of the region's camp.
"Just seeing these children," she said. "They need so much love and so much support in their lives. Being opened up to that, it just really impacted my life just to help them and to serve them in any way that I can."
She and her husband, Matt, were so personally moved by the children they met while volunteering together last summer, that they came back home and became foster parents.
"I knew I had to do more than just a week of camp," said Marler. "I wanted to become a foster parent."
Now, Marler is taking her heart for foster kids to a summer retreat at a private spot in Beauregard Parish, where the only concern these children will have is how much fun can be squeezed into five jam-packed days with a carnival, tea party for the girls, adventure day for the boys...and more.
"We're going to do a rodeo for them, we'll have swimming, we're going to do arts and crafts with them and then they'll do workshop with grandpa, because we do have aunts and uncles and grandparents there as a Royal Family," said Marler.
The goal: to show these kids they are valuable and loved by God - and loved by every volunteer invested in them.
Marler says she is actively recruiting an army of volunteers to spend five days loving on these children.
"We need counselors and we need nurses and we just need staff to be there and to help out," she said. "Also in the kitchen, as well, and then donations."
$500 covers the cost of a child to attend camp and Marler says they organization is also looking for donations of bikes and summer gear that most children in foster care do not have.
Every bit adds up to what Marler says is a life-changing experience for the camper, like one boy she met last year.
"He said, 'The only thing that got me through all seven homes was to know that I was valued and loved by God and that a Royal Family was praying for me all year-round,'" said Marler. "He said 'that's the only thing that got me through all of those homes, is to know that I was coming back to camp for one week to just forget about my past and know that I am loved and valued.'"
This year's Royal Family Kids Camp will be Monday, July 10 through Friday, July 14 in Beauregard Parish.
All volunteers will go through an interview and background check.
To connect with Royal Family Kids Camp - SW Louisiana, click here. You can also donate here or e-mail Kimberly Marler for more information.
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