ARIZONA FOSTER CHILDREN GET A CHANCE TO FEEL LIKE ALL-STARS
"We were in foster care, me and my two brothers," Brandon Nichols said. "We were raised by our grandparents and then as soon as they heard about a foundation for foster kids they got us involved and all three of us have been involved in one way or another ever since." The foundation Nichols is talking about is Hope & A Future, a nonprofit Christian organization offering abused and neglected children in the Arizona Foster Care System programs to make it in their journey of life. "I went to Royal Family Kids camp and I was 11 or 10 years old and I met Mike Brewer there and he and I have been friends ever since," Nichols said. "But when I was 19, my freshman year of college, I applied up here to be a counselor and I have just been hooked ever since." Now the 23-year-old is giving back by helping out at Hope & A Future's boys Teen Reach Adventure Camp (TRAC) in Payson, Arizona, a camp that provides life skills and teamwork along with some all-star fun. The All-Star program is just one of the many things the kids 12 to 15 will be exposed to during the three-day camp. "It's basically to celebrate the boys and let them know they're All-Stars, know that they're special, that they're unique, that they were created for a very specific purpose," said James Adams, Life Skills coordinator for Hope & A Future. "When the kids come on the first day, we kind of cram them with events and things to do and the counselors and campers get to create memories," Adams said. "And we have to create a lifetime of memories almost, so that they can share something and have something to bond over." The campers do all kinds of fun activities, including hearing inspirational stories from different people like Christian rapper The Rep, international slam dunk champion Kenny Dobbs and motivational speaker Tom Moffett. The kids even go shopping for new shoes and clothes and wrap up the first day of camp with a big feast. "They're going to eat like kings and a lot of them have never eaten that way, but the really cool thing is we have all the volunteers and all the leaders create a tunnel," Adams said. "We've got pompoms and cheerleaders and we put on music, announce their name and they run down the tunnel like superstars. "Camp is that one 30-second moment that a camper might have with a counselor and we work for that one 30-second moment and where this is just real life, the genuine love with one another," Adams continued. "They really feel accepted for who they are and it's unconditional. I think lives are changed all the time." A life-changing experience where kids no longer have to be afraid thanks to Hope & A Future. "Don't be afraid because if you don't take that step, if you don't try something, you never know what's going to change," Adams said. "If I didn't go to Royal Family Kids camp 12 years ago, I wouldn't be where I am today. My wife and I wouldn't be foster parents. It's changed my whole heart." "They help you every step of the way, like I said, Mike was my counselor," Nichols said. "He was always checking in. He was at my wedding. He was taking me to basketball games, Suns games, got me involved to volunteer."