JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - They experienced tragedy at a young age, but they're working through their grief and they're doing it together. Dozens of young survivors of homicide are now back home after spending what they called a life-changing weekend away. News4Jax was there for the homecoming.
They come from all walks of life, but they all have one thing in common -- they're all survivors.
They were each given special Camp Maddie awards representing personality and character. For Kayla Carson, her award reflects overcoming a fear.
"I got this award; it's called the zip line defeater," said Kayla Carson, who attended the camp for the first time. "I got it because I'm afraid of heights and I didn't really want to do it. But one of the counselors talked me into it and we did it together."
Someone shot and killed Kayla Carson's father, Stuart Carson, as he sat inside his taxi earlier this year.
"I like hearing stories from other kids so I know I'm not alone. So that I'm not left out," Kayla Carson said.
Campers said they wrote letters to their loved ones, played fun games and just hung out. Not only did they learn about persevering through tragedy, they're learning about turning their lives around. Few people know this as well as Ellis Curry. He served 12 years in connection with the 1993 murder of 14-year old Jeff Mitchell.
"I do this not only to help the kids, but to also put an image out that there that we need more people like myself, who took the wrong path and had a second chance to chance for the right," Curry said.
Jeff Mitchell's father, Glen Mitchell, is the founder of Compassionate Families. He and Curry work together to advocate against violence.
"(I'm) proud. I have the utmost respect and pride for what Ellis has done," Mitchell said.
As the survivors said goodbye to their new friends, they said all they could think about was doing it all over again.
"If you have a lost loved one and you're a kid, and you want to help and see other kids who are in the dame situation as you, you should come to Camp Maddie," KaylaCarson said.
Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.