Special summer camp serves kids impacted by HIV/AIDS

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 23, 2015)-- Summer camp is something so simple that many of us don’t think all too much about it. For one group of kids though, their summer camp on the west side of Indy is something they look forward to all year.

When you’re painting a shoe box, or running around in the summer sun, there’s very little else that crosses your mind other than that smile shining across your face.

The campers at the Tataya Mato week at Indy’s Jameson Camp are there for a very special reason. The 45 campers there this week all have HIV or AIDS, or have a close family member living it. Tataya Mato is a Sioux Indian term that means: "from the breath of the bear comes the rainbow."

“We have a lot of activities to do and it keeps me occupied so I won’t be in the house all day just sitting there doing nothing,” said 14 year old camper, Dyvinity Martin.

Martin has come to Tataya Mato every summer for four years, “It’s adventurous… I get to explore out here. I get bit up a couple of times but it’s fun, I can take the little bugs, it’s fun,” she said.

“You can get away from your tablets and phones and Xbox and have more fun doing this than in your home,” said 11-year-old camper, Joshua Brewer.

Brewer made the trek from Merrillville to Tataya Mato, because it is the only camp like it in the state.

“This is the only opportunity these kids might have to have a regular, fun, outdoor activity at camp,” said Dan Shepley, the Jameson Camp’s Executive Director.

Every summer the Jameson Camp welcome kids from all ages and backgrounds, but this week Shepley said is a special one. Each of this week’s campers comes from an underprivileged home, some from poverty, but all live close to a disease that can consume their thoughts.

But the week is spent doing so many seemingly normal things: arts and crafts, playing sports, and talking through those scary thoughts.

“Some of these kids are dealing with issues that they don’t know who to talk to because they don’t want to disclose the situation that they have or their family has and they’re wondering about things… will I ever have a normal life? They’re wondering about questions that kids shouldn’t have to wonder about,” said Shepley.

But often times at this camp, while these kids are playing in the summer sun, those thoughts can disappear.

“I know so many people here. The counselors are really nice. They help you through situations and they talk to you instead of you just sitting there and being mad all the time,” said Martin.

The Jameson Camp relies heavily on donations to operate. If you’d like to learn more about the camp and the camp’s Tataya Mato week, visit the Jameson Camp website.

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