When Brandon camp to camp in 2003, he was a violent and angry boy. Adopted as a one year old, he lived with his adoptive father and stepmother after his parents separated. At age 9, his father died suddenly. He then went to live with his adoptive mother.
Feelings of abandonment and rejection overwhelmed his young heart. He began to act out by fighting, cursing, skipping school and partying. He attempted to stab his step mother, set their house on fire and ran away numerous times. After being suspended from school, his mother was at her wits end.
A social worker informed them of Fair Play and they got in contact with a family worker. After visiting camp, he knew that was the place for him. He loved the outdoors and recognized that something had to change before ending up in jail.
At camp he learned how to express grief in a totally different manner rather than acting out. Together as a group, he with the other campers learned how to help each other express their feelings in a productive way. “The more I attempted to help others with their problems,” Brendon recalls, “the more I experience healing for myself. I learned to think about others more than myself. We suffered together as a group.”
One of the first things we learned at camp was the importance of solving problems. “We would circle up, and talk about the problem until it was solved. We learned to not run from our problems but to face them head-on. These problem solving skills helped to prepare us for our future.”
Chief Kevin remembers that Brandon arrived at camp soon after he started as chief. “As Brandon and I were both new at this camp thing, we bonded pretty quickly,” he recalls. “I remember many nights, when after the group was in bed, that we would talk. I would sit on his footlocker as he shared about the difficult things in his life.”
“Brandon allowed me and camp staff to walk his journey with him.” Kevin continues. “It was a joy to watch as he learned how to play guitar, solve problems, work together with his group and summit to authority. Obviously there were many difficult times, but he continued to grow into a man. He became a close friend with my wife Sheree and I and has stayed in touch over the years.”
“Camp is the first place I really felt accepted and loved,” Brandon remarks. “Every night the Chiefs would tuck us in and tell us they loved us – no matter how bad we had been that day. We were a rough group, but they stuck with us. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about camp. I still stay in regular contact with some of the other guys. Fair Play is located in a beautiful area but it’s the people that make camp – not the land!”
Camp helped Brandon to be a father to his son and step daughter. He is a skilled carpenter and construction worker. “Thank you for helping me to get my life on track!” Brandon concludes. “If it had not been for Fair Play, I would either be in jail or dead!”