Oklahoma Program Gives New Hope To Children Of Prisoners
Yale, OKLAHOMA - About 25,000 kids in Oklahoma have a parent in prison, which statistically makes them five times more likely to end up in prison themselves.
An organization called New Hope is trying to change that, by giving these kids a place to feel safe and accepted, and get the skills they need to succeed.
For the past 20 years, New Hope has been put on summer camps for kids who have a parent in jail or prison. The camps don't cost the kids a single cent - they're paid for by donations.
"It makes a huge difference," said Jeff, a New Hope camper.
Jeff's dad and step dad were both in prison and he first went to a New Hope camp when he was nine and went every year until he was 18. Now, he's going to be a camp counselor.
He says being around who don't judge and people who understand is critical.
"Before, you feel like you're the only person going through this. When you meet kids at camp, you don't feel alone anymore," Jeff said.
Many of these kids have tough home lives and often, are forced to grow up before their time, but, New Hope camp allows them to be a kid again and escape into horseback riding, archery, arts and crafts.
Plus, there's much more.
"We're teaching them anger management, conflict resolution, communication skills and skills that help them to beat the statistics they're up against," said Lindsay Fry-Geier of New Hope.
The goal of the summer camps, as well as New Hope's after school programs, weekend retreats and holiday parties are to help these kids beat the odds, to end the cycle of repeat of incarceration, especially in a state that ranks first in the nation for women behind bars and fourth for men.
It's an Oklahoma issue.
Jeff is a New Hope success story. He just graduated high school and is going to school in the fall and now, helping other kids overcome their circumstances.
"It helps you in so many ways, words can't even describe," he said.
Changing futures, one innocent child at a time.
Because New Hope survives solely on donations, they can always use cash as well as items like school supplies and sleeping bags.
And they welcome all volunteers.