Your donations to the Salvation Army Memphis send disadvantaged children to Paradise

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BURKESVILLE, Ky. -- About 340 miles away from Memphis and hovered in the hills just outside the small town of Burkesville, Kentucky, there's a camp that has all the makings of a typical summer camp.

Jessalyn Stewart loves being here because she can be just a kid.

"Well, I like being here because I can see other friends, meet other friends and experience new things," Jessalyn said.

Welcome to Camp Paradise Valley. It's a special place where all of the children who come here share one common bond: They all happen to be underprivileged and at-risk children, many from Memphis and the Mid-South, who otherwise would not have this opportunity.

Just look at the face of camper Scarlette Sanchez. It tells you what this camp means to her.

"My mom and my dad are always working, and me and my brother and I only stay at the house, and we don't do anything," Scarlette said.

The Salvation Army's Camp Paradise Valley is a fun-filled and positive atmosphere where kids love playing in the pool and hanging out on a double-decker boat with a sliding board for jumping. But they also learn fair play and respect for one's self. They enjoy breaking bread with fellow campers and counselors,  and they also get food for the soul during bible study.

"The church they told us how we can learn more about Jesus and like to do a lot of stuff when we grow up and for us not to be a bad influence for our sons and daughters," Scarlette  said.

For many of these kids, Camp Paradise Valley is their chance to be in a safe environment.

Former campers from several years ago now turned counselors such as Shardae Crawford and Laderious Dowell of Memphis know the importance of being here.

"It's a chance to get away and stay out of trouble because you are surrounded by people who love you. They're not like strangers, you are in a small community, like a fishbowl bowl community is what we call it," Shardae said.

"You know at the camp, kids are playing and having fun. They don't have to worry about anything going on. They can have fun running around and do activities," Laderious said.

On the campground, these kids join other kids from Salvation Army units across Tennessee and Kentucky.

Captain Zach Bell of the Salvation Army Memphis said it's a one-of-a-kind experience.

"While we have kids from Kentucky and Tennessee that get to take part in this, this is Memphis' camp. We will send 190 kids to camp this summer for the summer of 2016, which is amazing ," Bell said.

For many disadvantaged or at-risk kids, Camp Paradise Valley is just that: paradise. Operating a camp like this, which can potentially change lives, does cost money, but that's where you come in.

The week-long experience is more than just making friends. Kids also learn how to play band instruments and take part in other activities.

It's all made possible through the donations of Memphians and Mid-Southerners to the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign.

"The truth is need is all season long. The money that goes into the red kettles this time of year actually goes to help 365 days a year to provide kids amazing Christmas and an amazing summer," Bell said.

It's an amazing camp far away from home, where sometimes magical things seem to happen.

Kids can just be kids in a place that feels like paradise.

"This paradise. Yes, I say that because we can relax and have fun and get to learn about God and have fun and meet new friends," Jessalyn said.

"It's wonderful to be here. I'm having a lot of fun," Scarlette said.

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