Taming Trauma: FISH OF SANCAP Sponsors Camp Program Helping Children Recover from Impact of Hurricane Ian

While often scary, childhood nightmares are usually just figments of kids’ imaginative minds. But sometimes the root of their fear is all too real—like the lasting trauma from a devastating hurricane.

To counter that trauma, FISH OF SANCAP partnered with Camp Noah to offer a free, week-long day camp for local elementary-age children. Held June 3-7 at Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, the nationally recognized program helped 40 young campers deal with the emotional impact of Hurricane Ian.

“Rebuilding our island communities after Ian must go beyond bricks and mortar. It has to include helping our children come to grips with what happened, supporting them in their emotional recovery, and building preparedness and resilience that will serve them their whole lives,” said Maria Espinoza, Executive Director of FISH OF SANCAP.

Camp Noah began in 1997 in response to flooding in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota, growing dramatically in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. Camp Noah has served in 29 states and Puerto Rico, holding 273 camps with more than 4,000 adult volunteers and 14,000 elementary-age children. 

The June program was Camp Noah’s first ever held locally. Each day, campers took part in special programs built around fun, friendship, resilience and reconnection with life in the community. Campers also received supplies, a T-shirt, a preparedness backpack, and a blanket.

The camp was facilitated by the FISH team, 10 volunteers, and three counselors from mental health provider Azul Mind Space. Other participants included:

  • Lynn Saladini, Beach Floor & Décor, who donated a book for every child and invited children’s book author Ken Skelton to visit and read to the group;
  • Sanibel Fire Department, which shared about safety, a day in the life of a firefighter, and held a fire truck presentation;
  • Kim Berghes, a volunteer for American Red Cross, who introduced the “Pillowcase Project” that teaches kids about personal and family preparedness and safety skills;
  • Brittany Laster, Education and Outreach Coordinator, CROW Animal Ambassador Program, who showcased what CROW (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) does and what happens to animals during storms; 
  • Joy Robertson, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, who presented about Ding Darling and the importance of conservation and preservation of wildlife and their habitats.  

Kids and parents alike had much to say about Camp Noah.

“I am so happy you had this camp,” wrote one parent. “We lost our home to the hurricane, and my son still thanks God during dinner grace for keeping us safe.”

“I learned how to be prepared and how to get bad thoughts out of my head,” said a 10-year-old camper.

“I learned that I am so special, and I made many great friends,” an eight-year-old camper noted.

“This is a 1,000-out-of-10 camp, and I loved it!” another 10-year-old camper wrote.

Manuela Martinez, Disaster Administrative Director at FISH OF SANCAP, said the community’s support for Camp Noah was outstanding.

“We are so thankful to the many partners and volunteers who were so generous with their time, knowledge, and care for our young campers,” says she said. “It’s amazing to witness how powerful and healing Camp Noah was for everyone involved.”

Martinez also extended thanks to local food providers, including Jerry’s, Sanibel Deli, Doc Ford’s, and Rosalita’s Cantina. “Our food partners were amazing, and no one went hungry,” said Martinez.

“Camp Noah was a huge success thanks to everyone. From the venue to the activities, food, and supplies, some of which we borrowed from CECI, this was a real team effort. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts,” she added.

While Camp Noah was complimentary to participants, other camps charge a fee. For those who qualify, FISH offers scholarships for families to send their children to summer camps throughout Lee County. The program offers limited financial assistance for families who cannot afford the rising cost of summer childcare and camps. Households that can receive a youth scholarship must have an island connection through residency or employment.  For additional information, contact Nitza Lopez, nitza@fishofsancap, or 239-472-4775.