“That’s Not My Destiny Anymore”
Do you remember a moment that changed the trajectory of your life? We all have had those life defining moments that set us on a new path. In just a few short weeks, children from four children’s homes located in Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama will have the opportunity to experience life-changing moments when they attend On River Time camps. On River Time is a Birmingham, Alabama based nonprofit that aims to empower children of abuse and neglect through life-affirming programming, including their “Fish On” fly fishing camps.
As Kelli Croyle, from Big Oak Ranch describes, “Sometime it takes a new experience to give you a new perspective.” Many of the children who attend camp have never been on a plane before, never been out of their home state. When they attend camp they are able to step out of their traditional surroundings (a group children’s home) and receive an entirely new experience. The camps take place at The Lodge at Palisades Creek in Irwin, Idaho, on the banks of the Snake River, surrounded by the snow-capped Grand Tetons.
The camp is designed to be a fun, adventurous summer camp experience with two days of fly fishing, white water rafting, and a day trip to The Grand Teton National Park. But there are also a lot of intentional ‘moments’ built in that give the kids an opportunity to begin to heal from the pain they’ve experienced at such a young age.
One opportunity for self reflection takes place around a campfire. It’s called ‘burning our fears’. The kids, ages 12-18, are encouraged to write a fear they have on a piece of paper to be burned in the fire. Each one is given an opportunity to share, though not required. During our 2021 camps a young man stated his fear, “My mother was abusive. My dad was abusive. My biggest fear is growing up to be like them.” He then threw his folded up piece of paper into the fire. In that moment, there wasn’t a dry eye. One boy in particular became especially emotional. His director took notice of his tears. Later that director asked him what he was feeling saying, “I noticed that had an affect on you.” The boy responded that he had come from a similar background and had the same concerns of repeating his family’s generational patterns of behavior. But then paused. He finished by adding, “I realized, that’s not my destiny anymore”.
At On River Time, we believe every child has worth. A child should not be defined by the experiences of their past, nor the actions of the people who were supposed to care for them.
Our focus is on the child in front of us, and the generations to follow, with the long term goal of generational change. Through people, place, and programming: our fly fishing camps, year round life skills programming called “SOAR”, mentorship, and scholarships, we work to change the trajectory of these amazing kids’ lives, to help them become healed, whole, independent adults. We work so they can have a future filled with hope. Because the pain of their past is not their destiny anymore.