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Saint Francis Community Services KidzKamp counselors (from left) Laura Rampogu, Ashley Shuck and Joshua Robertson admire a campers penguin costume Wednesday during a day trip to Rolling Hills Zoo. The three are Saint Francis staff members who volunteered to help at the three-day summer camp provided free of charge to children in foster care. (Courtesy photo)

Despite predictions, rain failed to fall and dampen the spirits of nearly 50 children from across the state Wednesday as they took part in activities at the Rolling Hills Zoo, midway through their KidzKamp experience at the Webster Conference Center, 2601N. Ohio. Sponsored annually by Saint Francis Community Services, KidzKamp provides a place where children in foster care can forget their worries, form friendships and enjoy being a kid for three days at summer camp.
This year’s event featured the traditional summer camp activities - swimming, arts and crafts, and a talent show – plus, “The Greatest Carnival in the West” (indoor, with clowns) and a day trip to Rolling Hills.
For the last eight years, the camp’s success has depended heavily upon the work of Todd Hadnot, Saint Francis’ program manager for community outreach, and a cadre of Saint Francis staff volunteers and community supporters.
“We’re grateful that we’ve had a lot of community support,” said Hadnot, noting that several Salina businesses offered to help by donating T-shirts, refreshments and gift cards. “We’re also thankful for our Saint Francis volunteers. This year, 15 staff members volunteered, eight of whom stayed for the full camp.”
One of those staff members is Director of Training Development Christy Sanders, who volunteers each year along with several members of her department staff.
“Todd encouraged me to help last year, and I know that it brought our staff closer together as a team,” said Sanders. “We felt so connected to the kids and to each other; we’re excited to be a part of it.”
Hadnot said this is the first year the Webster Conference Center has hosted KidzKamp, and he hopes to return next year.
“They’ve been very helpful,” he said “They’ve allowed us full use of the building, and it’s a nice location where we can keep a close eye on the kids. There’s so much we can do outside, and it’s large enough inside so the kids don’t feel like they’re just stuck in a building.”
One of the highlights of this year’s camp, however, occurred off campus, at Rolling Hills Zoo.
“This year, the kids were able to do “Romp N’ Chomp”, where they build enrichment toys for the animals,” said Hadnot. “Then, they take the toys out to the animals (lions and rhinos) and watch them tear open the toys and find the treats inside. The kids spent half the day doing that and the other half walking the zoo.”