Happy Trails for Kids: Give Foster Children Their Childhood Back
“Summer was always the hardest part,” explains Carolina Wolf.
Carolina entered foster care when she was 13 years old.
“Summer was the hardest part because when I’m in school I’m distracted. But in summer that’s taken away. You don’t have adults who care about you, you don’t have your friends, and you’re isolated because all the people you know are out having fun. Then there was me. I was stuck alone with my feelings.”
Carolina is now 26 and works as a camp counselor at Happy Trails for Kids, where they believe that all foster children deserve the ordinary joys of childhood.
“These kids have seen more tragedy than most adults,” says Lindsay Elliott, executive director of Happy Trails for Kids. “We want to give them that childhood back. Our message to them is: It’s okay to still be a kid.”
On paper, Happy Trails for Kids is a fun summer camp for children experiencing foster care. In reality, Happy Trails is an experience-based intervention, where children can connect with nature and bond with other campers who understand what it is like being in the foster care system. But most importantly, Happy Trails is a community because – for the first time since entering foster care – many of these children will feel like they belong somewhere.
“These kids are living a life where they don’t have any control. It’s a life where their happiness is contingent on a social worker or judge saying ‘yes, you can do this’ or ‘you can go here,’” says Elliott. It is incredibly important to us that at camp, you get to feel like you are just where you should be and you are exactly who you should be.”
And, with dedicated camp counselors like Carolina, campers not only feel safe while they’re at camp, but they can also feel optimistic about their future.
“It’s always a special moment when I tell one of my campers that I was in foster care too, and I can just see their eyes light up,” says Carolina. “I do think they look up to me and are able to relate to me. I think they realize that if I could make it out of the system, then they will too.”
Executive Director: Lindsay Elliott
Happy Trails for Kids is dedicated to bringing camping, connections and confidence into the lives of boys and girls growing up in foster care. Through the great outdoors, overnight summer camp, year-round extracurricular engagements,and our supportive team of counselors, children are transformed by the power of positivity and possibility and are equipped with skills and surrounded by support to live happy and healthy lives.
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After participating in our youth leadership program and serving as a Junior Counselor, 92% of participants reported feeling more empowered and confident as a leader. 100% reported the experience helped prepare them for future employment opportunities.
Send a Foster Kid to Camp and Maybe Just Change His or Her Life
Each child growing up in foster care has their own story. And, while the trauma they experienced can’t be erased, Happy Trails is changing their personal narratives and life trajectories.
Happy Trails for Kids reminds foster children that they are resilient; they are important; and that they belong.
Each summer the nonprofit has hundreds of children waitlisted for its programs. Help Happy Trails expand its unique camp family and write a new chapter for these incredible kids.
Every $1,000 donation sends a child in foster care to summer camp and welcomes them into our year-round community of programming and support. Every $10,000 contribution sponsors an entire cabin of children.
“Long live summer!” says Lindsay Elliott, Happy Trails for Kids’ executive director.
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Foster
Youth Initiative Fund administered
by the Whittier Trust
California Community Foundation
Tailwinds Charitable Foundation
Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund
Salter Family Charitable Foundation
The William Gumpert Foundation
Milken Family Foundation
Barry and Wendy Meyer Foundation
Harriet Zaretsky and Steve Henry
Michael and Diane Ziering
Zolla Family Foundation
Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill
Pom Pom at Home, LLC
Corbel Capital Partners
Office of Board of Supervisor
Women Helping Youth