"Living in the city I was afraid to open up to new people and be involved in something I wasnt sure of, but CampCARE changed all that. It forced me to realize that some people can be nice and really want you to have fun, even if they are like pro snowboarders or whatever."
Taya Browns personal testimony is one of the many success stories to come out of CampCARE during its relatively short history of providing snowboard instruction camps for abused children in Canada and the United States. This week has seen the childrens charity bring 25 campers from the Sea to Sky Corridor and the North Shore to Whistler for a life-changing opportunity to learn to snowboard one-on-one with a team of volunteer pro-riders, coaches and helpers. Among them is Brown, who first came into contact with campCARE in 1998 at Mount Baker, as one of the kids needing a self esteem boost. She says theres no doubt that the camp changed her life.
"I guess it helped me realize that there is good in people that you often dont see living in a big city like Seattle," she says. "It gave me a whole new perspective because when someone takes the time to be with you and teach you, its totally awesome."
The first campCARE was held in Crested Butte, Colorado in 1997 and has since moved its way into Canada. According to the charity, more than 40,000 youth have been removed from their homes in Canada due to abuse. CampCARE founder, Heidi Landau, says her goal is to reach out to kids who havent had positive life experiences and turn it around for them. She says its amazing how much difference a little love, attention and positive energy can make.
"We take so much for granted and these kids dont take anything for granted," she says. "When they realize that we think theyre awesome and give them love, it makes them believe in themselves which is what its all about."
"Tom" from North Vancouver is another camp kid whos come back a second time. He says it was scary at first because he didnt know anyone, but he likes it now.
"Its dope, they stoke you out with new stuff, new boards, new clothes, everything. And getting the chance to snowboard for free is like unbelieveable, its really cool."
Brown says attending multiple camps has really brought home to her how quickly kids can gain confidence in the right environment even during a short three-day camp.
"At first they have their heads down and just talk among themselves and want to go back to their rooms," she says. "By the end theyre running around together and giving people hugs, and theyre all smiles."