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Oso kids reclaiming their childhood at summer camp

Millions of dollars was donated to the Oso and Darrington communities following the huge landslide in March that took 43 lives and devastated the area.

Now, some of the local kids are finding a way to reconnect thanks to money raised by the United Way, the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation and other organizations. They're going to summer camp!

"They come to camp feeling a little bit alone, and they leave camp feeling like they've gained a family," says Pearl James, Summer Camp Director at Camp Killoqua in Stanwood.

About a hundred children from the slide area are getting scholarships to camp this summer and next. They can choose any program that looks appealing, from traditional camp that includes activities like crafts and archery to specialty programs like horsemanship.

Camp Killoqua also offers a special grief program called Camp Willy. The kids do all of the normal camp activities, but they also have an hour each day set aside for group therapy with a trained grief counselor. James says it helps the kids connect with other children who've suffered a similar loss.

The campers also work on a community project during their session. This year it was welding a steel fire pit shaped as a lotus flower.

"They put messages into the fire pit by welding them on or into the metal," says James. "In the closing ceremony they were able to put a letter or something that they painted or made for their loved one, and burn it to send a message to them."

Only a handful of kids from Darrington and Oso took part in Camp Willy this year. Most of the children from the slide area will choose traditional camps instead. James says they do expect to have a lot more of the Oso-area kids next summer.

"So that they have time to process it on their own, and then come into a group therapy situation. It's just a little intense to come into it so soon," says James.

The money raised was enough to allow the children from Oso and Darrington to come back to camp next year, free of charge.

Camp Killoqua is part of the Camp Fire organization. Camp Willy and all of the camp's other programs are also open to the public.

You can learn more about Camp Killoqua here.

Kim Shepard, KIRO Radio Reporter
Kim Shepard is a news anchor and reporter for KIRO Radio and the office optimist. She's energetic, quick to laugh and has a positive outlook on life.
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