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Camp HOPE helping kids who’ve experienced trauma in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- From a distance, Camp HOPE in Memphis looks like your typical summer camp for young kids, but behind the laughs and smiles, the campers have already faced a lot in their lives.

“You would never look at a child and think, 'Oh, he’s getting abused,'" said camp counselor Jordan Dodson. "You never know their story and what’s going on in their household, so I believe it’s kind of heartbreaking, personally.”

Dodson is one of over 20 volunteers helping the kids at Camp HOPE. The kids have all been victim to some type of trauma, whether that’s domestic violence or sexual abuse.

“They can have PTSD, they can experience some developmental delays, they can have anger issues [and] they can have other behavior issues as well," said Mia Harvey, the Family Safety Center outreach coordinator.

One in four women and one in seven men in Memphis and Shelby County will at some point in their lives be a victim of domestic violence, according to research by the Family Safety Center.

Other startling numbers that have also come out of their studies show how children in our community are affected by this.

Last year, there was an average of 50 domestic violence incidents reported each day in Shelby County and nearly 90 percent of those incidents happened while kids were in the home. The Family Safety Center says those kids are one-third more likely to later become abusers or victims.

“This camp is instrumental in making sure we curb those statistics and make sure these kids don't become victims or abusers," said Harvey.

This was the camp’s first year in Memphis, put on by the Family Safety Center and Camp HOPE Tennessee. It’s free and provides therapy along with fun to the 35 students.

Friday's the last day of camp, but organizers hope next year they can expand it by having more students and more ages participate.

They hope to one day make Memphis a host-site for Tennessee, so kids from all over the state can come and see there are people on their side.

“Share your blessing if you have it -- Share it," said camp counselor Destiny Robinson. "Sharing is caring.”

The psychology department at the University of Memphis and the Grizzlies also helped donate and volunteer with this year’s camp.