The Salvation Army’s Wonderland Camp is located just over the border in Wisconsin. On a side street nestled behind tall leafy trees, you would miss the turnoff if you weren’t looking. But when you get there, you’re transported into a world where kids can be kids — away from the scorching pavement and the violence. Log cabins, hiking trails, archery and a lake for fishing and boating provide Chicago’s children a respite from their everyday lives.
It’s a sad reality that many of the children in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods don’t get out of the city. In fact, many of them don’t leave their neighborhood. All they know are the limited experiences they have in their few-block radius. For some children that means spending summer days on the front porch stoops or in the house away from violence.
But a week at camp expands their world. “I get to be in nature,” said Nia Dixon-Baker, who was attending sports camp for the third time. She always selects basketball, but this year she is also adding swimming. For her, the sports aren’t always the highlights of the visit. During filming for a video, Dixon-Baker saw a bunny hop by a log. “There’s a bunny!” she said with glee. “I’ve never seen a bunny in real life before.”
Jaidan Dunn has also attended Wonderland Camp for several years. This year he is participating in every camp offered, and is looking forward to trying out High Adventure Camp which features tent camping, high-ropes course and campfire cooking. No matter what activities he does, Dunn enjoys it because he’s with friends. “I like coming here every year because I get to be with my friends. We hang out and laugh and have a good time together.”