Elizabeth Herman and Darren Ransley
Camp HOPE America, Oklahoma Palomar, Oklahoma City Family Justice Center
Camp HOPE America, a program that serves children dealing with trauma, is honoring two of its longtime volunteers, Elizabeth Herman and Darren Ransley, as outstanding mentors.
Camp HOPE uses fun-filled avenues to bring hope into the lives of its campers. During the summer camp, counselors and mentors discuss important life lessons such as: forgiveness, our future is brighter than our past and that we all need each other. Campers learn about heroes who have overcome difficult times and chosen to do good things with their lives. Children are challenged with trust exercises, team building, rock climbing, yoga and are empowered with character trait awards.
Herman, a sergeant for the Oklahoma City Police, has been a Camp Hope volunteer for three years. She has built a special mentoring relationship with a young camper named Behareh. The two of them enjoy having dance parties in the cabin and love to make bracelets as a lasting keepsake of their time together at camp.
Herman describes Behareh as a natural leader who can easily make friends. She said being a camp counselor has helped her better appreciate human resiliency.
“As a police officer I often see people at their worst moments and never see how they turn out,” she said. “Watching the campers, and Behareh, grow over the years – even just during the week at camp – has given me hope for future generations. I remember helping campers with conflict resolution, which gave them revelations about giving grace to others because they don’t know what someone may be dealing with behind the scenes.”
Having the opportunity to spend time with Herman and other law enforcement volunteers in the safe space gives campers a chance to see the human side of police, Herman added. “A lot of these children only interact with police when there is conflict at home, so for them to be able to play games with me, ask me questions or share a meal with me sheds positive light on authority figures in their lives.”
Darren Ransley, director of strategic communications for Funk Companies in Oklahoma City, has been a Camp HOPE volunteer for four years.
“Camp HOPE is a unique experience for both mentor and mentee,” Ransley said. “It is a glorious dance of emotional learning moments that happen through physical successes (such as completing a hike) or through incredibly hard conversations in an opening moment.”
During his years as a volunteer, Ransley has developed a special connection with his mentee, Lionel, now 13. He described Lionel as a kind and polite gentleman who holds doors for others, helps clean up around camp and draws pictures to give others hope.
“When Lionel had some rough days away from home, we formed a stronger bond,” Ransley said. “We would sit and chat about life, how we could be better humans, how we were proud of ourselves and what we could learn. “
During one of their long talks, Ransley and Lionel discovered that they both share a love for playing guitar and began finger-picking songs together at camp. “It was awesome to watch his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm with a musical instrument,” Ransley said.
Ransley said he is inspired by Lionel’s maturity, kindness and desire to help others as he becomes a leader and mentor to younger campers. “Lionel is our future – the future of how we treat people in our community. Young men like Lionel will grow and pass kindness to the next generation.”
About the Program: Camp HOPE America is the first evidence-based camping and mentoring program for children exposed to trauma in the United States. Camp Hope America's vision is to break the generational cycle of family violence by offering healing and hope to children and adults who have witnessed and been impacted by family violence. Mentors are members of law enforcement and those working with youths with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).