First Rate Lead Analyst Leads the Fight for Kids in Need at Camp Impact

We sat down with First Rate Lead Analyst, Rachel Cooper, to learn about her passion and experience leading a North Texas camp that helps kids in need. Read the inspiring and uplifting Q&A to find out how this camp has impacted so many kids, families, and counselors.

Q: Can you describe Camp Impact?

A: Camp Impact is a FREE week-long day camp for homeless and underprivileged children in Arlington and Grand Prairie, Texas. Our goal is to provide a week of carefree fun where kids can truly be kids and let go of any social pressures or stresses from their environments.

Q: How many children attend Camp Impact and how are they referred? 

A: Camp Impact serves about 120 youth in need. Campers are referred to us by social workers and case workers from local shelters and title 1 schools.

Q: What does ‘Camp Impact’ provide these kids and specialize in?

A: For starters, Camp Impact provides 2 hot meals as well as snacks throughout the day. After the school year ends, many of our campers don’t have guaranteed meals. In addition, we offer TONS of activities like swimming, arts and crafts, science, cooking, and so much more. This summer, we are excited to surprise the campers by taking them to the new EPIC water park in Grand Prairie. It’s going to be a blast! Many children that attend our camp don’t have adequate resources such as clothing, so we provide each camper with a brand new pair of shoes, which is really cool! Last, but definitely not least, we provide love. Love is something that our campers often do not experience enough of and we’re eager to show them love each year.

Q: How did the journey of ‘Camp Impact’ begin?

A: Camp Impact began in 1996 as a social action project that followed the Jewish belief of “Tikkun Olam” or “repairing the world.” Since 1996, we have served over 2,000 children, many of whom have returned for multiple years as campers and some of them choose to get involved to serve as counselors as they get older.

Q: What prompted you to get involved with ‘Camp Impact’?

A: I got involved with Camp Impact about 15 years ago through peers and I volunteered for the first time when I was 14. At 14, I was worried about material things (such as convincing my mom to buy me a Motorola RAZR flip phone). I had never experienced a real struggle, and I certainly wasn’t thinking about homeless youth. My first summer at Camp Impact completely changed me. I was exposed to children who had experienced real trauma and who shared their stories with me. My perspective began to change drastically. I volunteered as a counselor throughout high school and college, and I’m now the Director of Camp Impact!

Q: What is your favorite part of ‘Camp Impact’?

A: I have too many favorites, so I’ll narrow it down to my top 3!

  1. The growing number campers that become counselors. It’s so rewarding to see the impact in their lives and watch them want to do the same for others. It’s a great reminder that what we do really makes a difference.
  2. Watching the campers open their goody bags on the last day of camp and see their new pair of shoes!
  3. Watching my teenage counselors cry on the last day after all the campers have left. It sounds cruel, but it means that the week was just as important and impactful to them as it was to the campers.

Q: What experience at ‘Camp Impact’ has had the greatest impression on you?

A: The experience that has had the greatest impact on me happened a couple of years ago with a camper named Nathaniel. Nathaniel has attended camp for many years, and over the years we have developed a strong bond. He is sweet, respectful, and incredibly intelligent – at just 10 years old he takes high school classes! Unfortunately, Nathaniel comes from a very tough upbringing. His parents have battled drug addiction and struggle to provide for their children. I started to notice that Nathaniel came to camp in the same clothes every day, and it became quite obvious that he hasn’t had proper nutrition for most of his life. One morning, I walked into the nurse’s office while Nathaniel was arriving at camp. I immediately noticed the condition of his shoes, which were held together with duct tape. I realized I could see all five toes on his left foot. Many children come to Camp Impact with shoes like Nathaniel’s, so we decided to start an annual shoe drive. Nathaniel wasn’t aware yet, but we collected new shoes for months and planned to surprise everyone on the last day of camp. But I knew his shoe situation could not wait! While the nurse assessed him, I got his size and headed to the storage closet to grab some shoes. I came back with several pairs for him to pick from. I will never forget the smile on Nathaniel’s face! It truly lit up the entire room. I put the new shoes on his feet then asked him what he thought. Nathaniel had never worn a new pair of shoes and was absolutely elated. He gave me a huge hug and said would cherish his shoes forever. It was one of the greatest, most heart-warming experiences I’ve ever had. Something small meant so much to Nathaniel.

Q: What is your vision for the future of ‘Camp Impact’?

A: To have our own facility and take more campers! Currently, we rent a campsite from another organization and it’s a bit of a challenge. They have a lot of restrictions and space is very limited. We serve 120 campers each summer but there are over 2,000 homeless children in Grand Prairie alone! So many more kids could benefit from Camp Impact, but we do not have the room to accommodate.

If you would like to learn more or get involved to assist in the efforts of Camp Impact, please visit www.campimpact.org or watch the video below.

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