The heart of a child believes "anything is possible." The mind of an experienced adult says "we'll see." At the Hope House Summer Camp, the power of belief, in spite of the difficult things seen and experienced, won out.
On a hot summer day last June, several strangers met at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station, prepared to take a journey together and live as family for a week. The group included 11 children, ages 8 to 14, who shared one common thread: All of them have fathers who have been incarcerated for anywhere from five to 21 years in a private prison in Youngstown, Ohio. Six adult counselors and one parent volunteer had committed to care for the children and to ensure that their journey was both safe and rewarding. The first would be easy; the second would depend on the fathers, the hand of God, and a group of kids willing to take a chance.
Carol Fennelly founded the Hope House Summer Camp Program to give Washington, D.C. children who have fathers in the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center an opportunity to spend quality time with their dads.
"Most people don't care about prison inmates; there's not even a debate anymore about rehabilitation," said Fennelly. "But people care about children. I thought maybe this way society would pay a little more attention to the problems of prison. Children need their dads." In the Hope House program, children spend one week in Ohio, splitting every day between a camp facility and time spent with their fathers at the prison. Children and fathers do a curriculum of art activities together as they bond and build relationship.