Nothing excited Nykla Spann more than the red and gold beach towel she found at the bottom of her new duffle bag. It meant that she would be in the water during her week at Kids Across America summer camp, and for a ten year old that rarely had an opportunity to swim at home, that was an elating prospect.
"I've never been in a lake before," said Spann with a smile. "To me, (swimming) is the best part of camp."
The Chiefs made sure Spann and a group of local kids had the summer camp experience of a lifetime. The team covered the costs of nine campers and two chaperones to spend a week at KAA1, a Christian summer camp in Golden, MO.
The camp, which is part of three facilities that host over 6,300 campers each summer, targets at-risk urban youth. Through Bible study and activities like swimming, sports, and a gravity-defying elevated obstacle course, the camp aims to engage campers while building self-esteem and leadership qualities.
The camp program is offered at a fraction of the original cost in order to accommodate less fortunate families. But the Chiefs covered attendance costs and more during a camper send-off event at Arrowhead Stadium last month. At the event, Spann and the other campers received team-related camping gear, including Chiefs-emblazoned beach towels, team apparel, and other items.
For the third straight year, team chairman and former KAA camper Clark Hunt personally delivered the gear to each sponsored child. And for the third straight year, camp president Gregg Bettis could notice a positive change in each camper sent by the Chiefs.
"These kids have never had this kind of opportunity, and many of them come to us with low self-esteem, without a lot of hope for the future," said Bettis, who has worked at the KAA camps for 15 straight summers. "There's a remarkable change though--our urban group leaders tell us that they accomplish more in seven days here at Kids Across America camp than they accomplish in seven months."
Bettis and others notice an increase in confidence among campers as they accomplish each activity and set new goals. When their weeklong stay is through, camp counselors say they can hardly recognize their groups.
"Just giving these kids a shot makes them more confident," said Shanice Holmes, a counselor at the camp for five weeks. "And they bring those lessons and the lessons they learned in the Gospel back to their communities."
That can only happen once the kids leave KAA camp, though--a task easier said than done for the nine Chiefs-sponsored campers.
"Thank you Mr. Hunt," said Spann. "I used everything in the bag (of camping gear) and I never want to leave."