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Purple Day goes virtual

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Submitted Photo For many of the foster kids, the weeklong Royal Family KIDS of New Mexico camp is the only time they get to experience being a child and being loved.

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Purple Day is the annual fundraiser for the sixth annual Royal Family KIDS (RFK) of Roswell camp, benefiting children in foster care. The fundraiser will be taking place online on June 3, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., due to the pandemic restrictions.

Purple Day is much more than a fundraiser, it is also an event to raise awareness for those less fortunate children in our own communities who face the impossible daily, which may include neglect, abuse and worse events that no child should encounter. Some of these kids have never had a birthday cake, or played games with other kids. They are often moved from foster home to foster home, which makes it hard for them to keep anything but memories. Purple Day is a way for the community to get involved and help show these children that somebody cares, that they are loved and appreciated, and that they deserve childhood joys. During camp they will be treated like royalty.

Tabitha Denny is the director for RFK. In a phone interview, she talked about the changes and decisions on going virtual online.

“Our regular Purple Day would have been on April 22,” Denny said. “However, due to the quarantine and COVID-19, that didn’t occur. Purple Day is a day where typically we have businesses donate a percentage of their sales that day, especially the restaurants, but that didn’t happen. So we postponed it indefinitely because at this time, the quarantine hasn’t been lifted, especially for our food establishments. So what we’ll do is what we call a virtual Purple Day. It’s going to be one of those where anybody can donate, they can go however they want to do it, just so we get awareness on what Purple Day is.

“Purple Day is one of our main fundraising days for Royal Kids Camp of New Mexico,” Denny said. “It is for kids that are in foster care, or just went home or just got adopted. They get to go to camp for a week and be a kid and don’t have to worry about anything else, other than being a kid. This year has been a little different at this point because we still don’t know what is going to happen. We’re proceeding forth and we are going to have camp, unfortunately we are going to take fewer kids, just based on mandate on group gatherings. However, we’re still waiting on final word from CYFD (New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department) if we are able to take the kids. Otherwise, we’re still going forward with raising funds because, even if we can’t do our regular week at camp on that second week in July, which is the week of July 6, we are going to do something for the kids in the fall.”

Denny has a long history helping children also in her full-time job. “I work with kids that are in Treatment Foster Care, so with children who need a higher level of care other than foster care kids. I work with CYFD in the state pretty regularly, and so we have that relationship and I can’t say enough things about our social workers, they are phenomenal and have a hard job. I do therapy on the side, as well, for adults and kids,” she said.

Denny is concerned about the circumstances that the children are in during the quarantine. “Right now, these kids are the most vulnerable, especially being at home,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in abuse cases. The calls come in and are much more severe and the kids have to be removed, so that, in itself, is hard. Obviously, domestic violence is up, too. So we want something else for the kids right now, even if we don’t do camp before the fall. Just that they know that they are being thought about, that we are thinking about them and wished they could be there. At least we are going forward and still trying to raise funds. We realize that it’s really difficult for a lot of places and individuals right now, however, we want to still make sure that they get something to look forward to for camp and be able to do something fun.”

RFK is keeping in touch with the children. “Because what I do in my regular job, I have contacts with all of our social workers anyway,” she said. “We also have the camp mentoring program they keep, they have a time several months where they do outings with the kids that have attended camp, so we keep that relationship going so that they have some continuity. Because so often they move from foster home to foster home where they don’t have any continuity. They may have the same social worker but because of the overturn for them is really high, they may have more than one social worker. We try to build that relationship with them at camp and continue it when camp is done. But they just finished mentoring, they had to stop it early because of the quarantine.

“It is kind of a double-edged sword, at least some of the kids that are in foster care, we know most of them are in a safe environment. Nine times out of 10, it is better than where they came from,” Denny said.

The organizers of the RFK camp are prepared to postpone the camp, depending on what will happen concerning social distancing regulations. “We will need volunteers,” Denny said. “At this time, we don’t know what we’ll be doing in the fall. Unfortunately, we might do a couple of day trips, something local, or we do something at the parks. We don’t know how we’re going to go about it, there is so much stuff up in the air.”

There are other ways than donations, where the public can help, Denny said, “We always need volunteers. We require all of our volunteers to have a background check, as well as they go through training, because we have so many rules in place that we have a protocol put in place, not just for the safety of our kids but the safety of our volunteers. We want to make sure that it’s done correctly. There are things that through our organization has been put in place and CYFD has put certain things in place to make sure that our kids are safe.

“For volunteers, it doesn’t always mean you have to go spend a week at camp with the kids,” Denny said. “We have volunteers that do things for a day; there are volunteers that do things here where they help in training or for registration. There are so many ways that we’re always needing help. It is not always taking time off to go, although it is a truly life-changing event to go up there for a week, or a day and spending time with these kids. So many of these kids at 9, 10 or 11 never had a birthday, so we have a big birthday party with cake and presents. We do that for all of the kids on one day. These kids are shown undivided love. RFK is a faith-based camp, but not a church camp. We don’t have church, but we do let them know that God loves them and that we love them and that they are special. We want to create memories that matter for them. So many of these kids, well that may be the only positive memory these kids will have going forward, we want to have something for them.

For more information, visit purpledayroswell.com and like its Facebook page.