Hope for kids is on the next horizon

Camp helps put at-risk children on the right track

Eighteen years ago, Lisa Phillips was your average camper, making s’mores and roasting hot dogs, telling scary tales and singing songs around a campfire.

Today, she’s working hard to ensure that youths from lowincome Toronto families get the chance to go to camp to make their own memories.

The 32-year-old local resident is the founder and director of Horizon Arts Camp, a registered charity accredited by the Ontario Camps Association, which uses performing and visual arts training to prevent kids from getting into trouble.

“A lot of the kids we work with are at risk of becoming involved with gangs, have issues and trouble in school and are constantly getting in detention,” Phillips says.

“For me, it’s really important to help them find a connection to something that’s really positive, and camp does that. Camp’s pretty powerful in that way.”

Horizon Arts Camp provides quality arts programming with a blend of traditional camp activities for kids and youths, aged seven to 15, who are referred by social services agencies, teachers, principals, social workers and community groups.

The camp, which also offers fall and spring programming, runs two summer sessions during which campers explore music, dance, drama and visual arts. Older campers specialize in one of the arts and get training from industry professionals. Phillips hopes the kids leave camp with a sense of belonging, increased self-confidence and life skills.

“Camp was always a home to me, it was a second home. It really gives you a sense of belonging to something that is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced,” she says. “For me it was important to give kids who don’t normally get that opportunity the chance to have that feeling.”

Even though it has received funding from the Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation and the Raptors Foundation for Kids, the camp may have to cut half of the summer’s programming “This is a program that really impacts the lives of children, that changes their decisions, whether they join a gang or not, and I mean that’s huge,” she says. “It’s huge for them, it’s huge for their families, and it’s huge for the community.”

For more information, visit www.horizonartscamp.org.

Post City Magazines salutes Lisa Phillips for giving at-risk kids a chance to experience camp.

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