August 8, 2003
Camp Kindle, a camp for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, is held annually at the Covenant Cedar Conference Center near Hordville, Neb. Founded five years ago by 20-somethings Mandy Nickolite and Eva Payne, the camp serves more than 80 children ages 8 and up, free of charge to the children.
"This is a safe place for kids in a world where there aren't too many safe places," Payne said. "This isn't like a doctor's office, where they have to deal with the issue. There are answers here, but there are also friends and fun."
During the five years that the camp has been operating, kids have come from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma and other Midwestern states. Brenna Foster, a five-year counselor with Camp Kindle, said the camp's location in the middle of the country is one of the factors that make it special.
"The camps, right now, are very coastal," she said. "Most kids don't know anything like this is out there unless they really dig for it, which is why we contact health departments and clinics and anywhere that might deal with the population."
The camp, which concluded recently, lasts slightly less than a week. It includes a morning session where the kids get together and talk about issues. The afternoon and evening are for fun: campfires, talent shows, and other activities. Many of the children are underprivileged, the deck stacked so steeply against them that AIDS seems reduced in importance, according to Payne.
"We raise what we need, we start all over, and we raise it all again," she said. "It's like that every year. But for these kids, they live with it every day. ... This is the only time they get to talk about it and have fun."