Shelter Children Enjoy Art-focused Camp

Camp Bravo students perform in Lovers Lane United Methodist’s Asbury Hall. (Photo by Tanner Garza)

Cathey Brown, a professional educator, knows homeless children need summer camps, too.

Brown, a recovering alcoholic, founded Rainbow Days in 1982 to equip children of addicts with essential life skills.

In addition to support groups and curriculums, the Dallas nonprofit presents a summer camp lineup: Kids University at University of Texas at Dallas, Outdoor Adventure Camp in far southeast Dallas, and Camp Bravo at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church.

“The summer camps are so they can be a kid, play, and get out of the shelter,” Brown said.

Camp Bravo, offered in two four-day sessions, introduces children to acting, drawing, performing arts, dancing, and movement as ways to express and manage emotions.

The students also participated in small support groups to explore such topics as the importance of education, staying drug free, and having a sense of purpose.

Photo by Tanner Garza

About 300 children ages 4–12 participated each week.

“Exposing children to the arts and giving them a week filled with creative learning opportunities with caring adults and instructors from our community makes a significant positive impact [on] children’s lives,” Brown said.

“It only takes one moment, one mentor, one memorable experience to expand a child’s world and introduce them to new possibilities.”

Tony Ballard, one of the performing arts teachers, attended Rainbow Days camps and events when he was growing up near Fair Park.

The 36-year-old is now a musician working with The Artist Outreach.

“No matter where you come from or where you go home to every day … you can do what I do, which is make music all day,” he told campers.

As youngsters, Ballard and his siblings tried to dodge fights their parents got into, along with grease fires and even house fires.

“Then when we went to live with just my mom, going from two parents to one, [we fell into] poverty,” Ballard said.

Years later, Ballard’s brother started working for Rainbow Days and took Tony with him.

“Rainbow Days got me out of the monotony of every day,” he said.

“These songs, you know, you try to pretend that you’re not being touched by this stuff, but somewhere deep down inside of you, you’re crying, because it feels so good.

“These kids learn more [here] in the summer than they do in school,” Ballard said. “They learn how to work with each other.”

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