Family Focus': Free camp helps expose local kids to new opportunities

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During a time when our area is seeing increased crime and younger suspects and victims, seven local businessmen, executives and entrepreneurs took it upon themselves to do something about it.

They feel like the difference for many boys is exposure and opportunity

And they’re using sports to do it.

[Family Focus: Local summer camp helps children with special needs 'soar']

“Sports are cool, but sports are just a tool to get somewhere else in life,” said Shawn Kennedy, co-founder of Impact Camp.

Kennedy started the camp four years ago with a handful of partners.

“We needed to find a way to help our young brothers be exposed to different things,” he said.

Over the course of five days, the boys, ages 8 to 13, learned about different career paths, colleges and also had the opportunity to meet with military members and police officers.

One CMPD officer served as a DJ for part of the camp to bond with the boys.

“The minute the officers started dancing, the guards came down,” Kennedy said.

But it’s more than just a good time and a little bit of career knowledge.

They’re instilling everyday values the kids can take home.

“They just teach me how to make the right decisions and not to get caught up in the wrong places or with the wrong people,” said 13-year-old RJ Carr.

Jacobe Smith first attended the camp four years ago.

He was so inspired, he’s now a camp counselor.

“They’re like my little brothers. It’s like a family now,” said Smith.

It’s no easy feat to put this on.

Kennedy and his company partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the Charlotte Housing Authority to give the students free rides to the camp and Jon C. Smith University donated its facility for the week.

“Just by getting the youth on campus, it exposes them to the benefits of higher education. That they would continue to look upward and may one day decide they want to go to college,” said Smith University athletic director Stephen Joyner.

[ALSO READ: Special camp helps children who are blind or visually impaired have fun this summer]

It's a passion project for Kennedy and these kids are worth it.

“You have to give back. If you don’t give back life isn’t worth living,” he said.

The program is completely free thanks to private donations and companies.

They’re hoping to add young girls to the mix in the next year or two.

Impact camp holds two sessions a year. One in the summer and one in the winter.

Parents or guardians can sign up for the program by calling 704-277-0855.

Make an Impact Camp is a program under the newly formed non-profit meck investment company.

Comments on this article