MOOSE LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — All the laughter and giggles pouring out of a Moose Lake church is a lot more than just kids playing games.
Consider all this fun and frivolity a form of group therapy.
“That’s the purpose of the camp is we teach children resiliency,” Nancy Beers said.
Beers is the director for Lutheran Social Service’s Camp Noah; created after the Red River floods of 1997 as a way to reach out to the youngest victims of disaster.
The general theory behind the camp setting is that by gathering children of similar age and common disaster, they quickly learn that they are not alone.
“That’s the way to get through a disaster,” Beers said. “But it’s also a way to get through all the other disasters in our life as well.”
Camp Noah is hosting 26 children from the June flooding in Minnesota’s northland. Children from Willow River, Moose Lake and Sturgeon Lake are gathering at Hope Lutheran Church for the week-long camp.
One third of all homes in Moose Lake were damaged to some degree by heavy rains and flooding. The nearby Moosehead Lake rose to nearly 10 feet above its normal summer level. That left a number of homes too badly damaged to return to.
“We have people living with friends, relatives, and in campers outside their house, without heat, electricity or hot water,” said Tom Paull, the city’s manager of flood relief. “And it’s going to start getting cold pretty soon.”
Back at the day camp, children use a giant slingshot to launch a rubber chicken down the sidewalk. But it’s not all goofy games they’re playing.
With paper and colored pens, they’ll use their artistic talents to help tell their stories.
Stories like how floodwaters swept into their homes, ruining toys and treasures. For some children, the trauma also required them to endure frightening boat rescues.
“It made me frightened, because I thought we were going to lose our house and we’d have to buy a new one,” said Landin, a Moose Lake third grader.
The camp and the trained counselors will help the children open up to their feelings and fears.
“Then you know you’re not alone, and that there’s other people that will be there for you,” said Donnamae, a fifth grader.
The camp isn’t free, but an anonymous donor paid for it all, making the camp possible.