Film inspired by camps like one in Manhattan

By Rose Schneider

An organization that puts on camps for foster children, including one in Manhattan, got a little publicity last week with the release of the movie “Camp.”

The movie, which was released Friday at Carmike Seth Child 12 theater in Manhattan, will run through April 25, according to the theater’s website. It was also released in 30 other cities in Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Illinois and California, and it will be shown in more than 100 cities by the end of its limited release this spring.

The film is inspired by Royal Family KIDS Camps, which is geared toward foster children who have been abused or neglected.

“People who have seen it have been touched by it,” said Glenda Newkirk, director of the Manhattan Royal Family KIDS Camp.

The movie follows Ken, an investment adviser who signs up to help with a camp to impress a potential client. He’s paired with Eli, an angry boy from an abusive home who seems to be too much to handle. Eventually, the two bond. Then, according to a description on the film’s website, “Ken must decide what he is willing to sacrifice so Eli will understand the meaning of unconditional love.”

The Manhattan camp will receive 40 percent of proceeds from ticket sales at the local theater. The national office will receive 10 percent of proceeds from ticket sales.

Manhattan’s camp is celebrating its 14th year this June for children 7 to 11 years old in the foster care system who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their parents.

Newkirk, who has been with the camp for 12 years, said she is looking forward to the coming year because the program is kicking off a new club and mentoring program this fall.

“Seventy percent of those in prison were abused, neglected or abandoned as kids,” Newkirk said. “Through mentoring programs, we can help kids to become more adjusted and productive adults to avoid problems later.”

Any children in foster care who would like to be a part of the mentoring program must go through summer camp first. They are then paired up with camp mentors for a nine-month period where they meet four hours each month and attend club meetings.

Each summer the Manhattan camp sees between 35 and 40 children. Newkirk estimates the program has worked with about 400 children since Scott Murrish started it in 1999. The children have the opportunity to swim and do other activities. And each week the camp holds a birthday party with presents because “many of the kids have never had a birthday party or presents,” Newkirk said.

“Working at the camp tugs at your heart strings and makes a huge difference in kids’ lives and teaches you a lot,” she said.

Newkirk, who is a substitute teacher, said she has adapted a new way to deal with the “problem children” in her classes since she started working at the camp.

“My whole outlook has changed in dealing with kids, especially those with anger problems,” she said. “I used to think, ‘What a bad kid.’ But when I started working with kids who were abused, abandoned or neglected, I started wanting to get behind why they’re acting that way.”

They’re not lousy kids, she said, pointing out there is always a reason why the children are behaving the way they are and that a lot of times the situation is out of the child’s control.

“Getting involved has been a life-changer for me — I can’t imagine doing anything else — it has become a part of me,” she said.

The week-long camp is free for children to attend. The organization is funded by donations, grants and sponsorships from local businesses, and it conducts fundraisers throughout the year including the upcoming 5k and Royal Kids Fun Run April 20 at Manhattan’s Northeast Community Park.

Anyone who would like to become a mentor can find applications on the Royal Family KIDS Camp website.

Volunteers must also undergo extensive background checks and be fingerprinted before being accepted into the program.

To see a trailer for the film, go to

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