Royal Family Kids: Local organization works to combat childhood trauma 

Children at Royal Family Kids often share words about the impact the short week can have on them.

Brandon Van Keuren

Children at Royal Family Kids often share words about the impact the short week can have on them.

Brooklyn Gowan, Pv Only Editor

With a goal to create life changing experiences and provide stable relationships for children in the foster care system,  Royal Family Kids is a non-profit organization under the parent organization “For The Children.”

Issues regarding children in the foster care system affects Iowans to a greater extent than realized. Although there are not any students in the foster care system enrolled in PV High School according to Principal Darren Erickson, the issue children in the foster care system face is close to home. Scott County has the third highest number of children in the foster care system in Iowa, with 332 children as of 2021.

Children in foster care grapple with adverse effects as the aftermath  of their experience in the system.  Some of the effects include, but are not limited to, academic failure, teen pregnancy, incarceration and substance abuse. 

Royal Family Kids works to combat these effects. RFK has locations not only across the country, but has also expanded internationally. There are currently 240 locations in the US and 12 based in other countries. 

 The Quad Cities chapter of RFK serves children from Mercer, Rock Island and Scott counties. In 2022, the organization  served 38 children, nearly maxing out their current campground.  “The number of children served has grown every year since holding our first camp in 2014,” stated Director Wendy Bezotte. 

The mission of the Quad Cities chapter is to “transform communities by interrupting cycles of neglect, abuse, and abandonment of children in the foster care system.” 

The Quad Cities chapter holds a one-week camp in the summer at an undisclosed location in Illinois. The children are matched with a counselor, who is by their side for the entirety of the  week. The campers are set up with either a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. 

During the week, the volunteers work to create a stress-free environment for the campers and do their best to provide a fun and transformative week. Some of the activities in the past have included horseback riding, ziplining and archery. The camp also has a birthday party for all of the kids, as many kids who attend RFK camp have never had a birthday party before. 

Other activities that take place at camp include singing, dancing and playing games. There is a spa day for the girls; for the boys, there is an honor code where they learn a new value each year they attend camp. The fun-filled week allows the kids to forget about their worries at home and just be normal kids for at least one week.

This is also one of the few locations to have a mentoring club. The club runs every third Tuesday during the months of September through May. The night includes a dinner, games and an opportunity to continue building the relationships that had been created over the summer. 

Bezotte shared what she believes to be one of the most impactful stories from her years at camp. “Michael started camp anxious and sometimes withdrawn. He received 65 heart notes—notes of love and positivity from the volunteers—which he cherished throughout the week. On the bus ride home from camp he tore up all of his heart notes and threw them on the floor. I stepped on the bus to find the counselor and behavior specialist sitting with him. The behavior specialist looked at me with tear-filled eyes, and said ‘we just have to sit it in with him,’” said Bezotte. 

While this story showed that the organization isn’t necessarily able to ensure positive effects on the children’s lives, it shows the love and depth the volunteers are willing to go to to be there for these kids. They sit with them through all of their feelings to let them know they will always be there for the child and that their feelings are valued. 

Royal Family Kids works to ensure that children’s basic needs are met not only during the week, but to also send the kids home knowing they have a family in RFK that will be there no matter the circumstances.

If interested, you can get involved or make donations at the Royal Family Kids