East Manatee's Treeumph donates day of play to local foster kids

srocco@bradenton.comJuly 2, 2014 

A child maneuvers across a ladder made of wood and rope Tuesday at Treeumph Adventure Course during a summer camp for foster children.SABRINA ROCCO/Bradenton Herald

EAST MANATEE -- Some had never climbed a tree.

Until this week, one had never been in the Gulf of Mexico.

That was to change Tuesday as 39 children in the state foster care system pulled on harnesses and began a training session at Treeumph Adventure Course.

This day of play was part of a free three-day summer camp hosted by the Safe Children Coalition, a nonprofit collaboration between the YMCA and the community to provide for abused, neglected or abandoned children.

Time to forget about struggle and sorrow. For three days, these kids get to be kids.

"The goal is to give them opportunities they may not get at home," said April May, community development administrator for the Florida Department of Children and Families. "A lot of kids get to go to summer camp. Many of

these kids don't, so we bring the camp to them."

They went to the beach Monday.

Wednesday, they'll head to Tampa for a tour of the University of South Florida and a day at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Tuesday was all about ziplining. Treeumph shut down two reservation slots and invited the children, ages 10 to 17, to spend the day at the facility free of charge.

"The children are so excited to be able to do this," said Lucia Branton, child welfare specialist with the Safe Children Coalition, adding the third-year summer camp is special for the youngsters.

"They lack that insight into themselves, and they think they can't achieve their goals," she said. "They've been told for so long that they aren't good enough or smart enough, and that is the most damaging thing you can do to a child. ... Now they can act their age and not have to worry about where they're going."

One teenage boy in a white baseball cap and black skinny jeans crawled high into the trees and began to walk across a wobbly wooden ladder.

"Why am I not even right now?" he smiled, cautiously taking a step and then another.

Because the children are in foster care, the Herald is only identifying them on a first-name basis.

Tabatha, 14, followed: "This is a lot of work!"

Her friend, Tasha, climbed down and then sprinted to the next course.

"I thought that would be, like, really tricky, but it was easy," she said. "I've never ziplined before."

Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.

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