Camp held for survivors of homicide victims

3-day therapeutic camp held for survivors

KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. - Camp Maddie in Keystone Heights was filled over the weekend with 52 local children and teens who are survivors of homicide victims.

They told Channel 4 they had quite an exciting weekend as they participated in the camp organized by Compassionate Families Incorporated and the YMCA.

Camp Maddie is for young survivors of homicide victims and this is the sixth camp they've put on. It's a three day therapeutic camp for kids and teens to not only have fun, but also learn how to cope with the grief of losing a family member.

The campers left Friday evening and got back around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and many of them had parents and loved ones waiting on them to hear about their exciting weekends.

Each camper was introduced and got an award at the closing ceremonies, and even showed off some of the cheers they learned over the weekend.

"It helps you deal with grief in a better way," 13-year-old Shareece Porter said.

Porter has gone through something most people can hardly imagine -- losing a family member to crime.

Even though she has dealt with a lot of grief, it's organizations like Compassionate Families Incorporated that help keep her strong.

The camp allows kids and teens learn how to better understand and cope with grief. Most importantly though, they have fun.

"We did the lake, we went canoeing, kayaking, swimming, zip lining, rock climbing, dancing, basketball, everything," Porter said.

Porter has attended at least five of the six years Camp Maddie has existed, and what makes it even more special is her big brother has attended with her.

Ryshamel McNeil attended every single year with his sister and this year, the 18-year-old decided to be a volunteer.

"I like learning new things and being around the campers," McNeil said. "That's younger campers and older campers, and seeing the same people who learn different things and build stronger emotions."

Porter says she and her brother have a close bond, even with his new leadership role.

"You know, older brothers, they automatically have a say-so over you, and then when he has authority in public places, it makes it worse, just a little bit," Porter said. "But it was kind of fun."

Porter said the rock climbing, zip lining and other adventurous activities were great, but she really enjoyed making new friends.

"Everything is fun," Porter said. "Like meeting new people and seeing little kids experiences. It's great."

The campers were excited to be back home and see their loved ones, but were also sad that the fun weekend was over.

They said they at least have next year to look forward to.

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