The Gift of Charity
Joe Bornstein and Camp Mariposa
Joe Bornstein believes in mentoring kids who have been impacted by substance abuse in their families, which is why he and his wife, Lynn, through the KBR Foundation, have generously supported Camp Mariposa, a national addiction prevention program under the umbrella of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of the Suncoast (JFCS), aimed at helping children between the ages of 9 and 13.
Bornstein was born in Petersburg, Va., then moved to the Norfolk area when he was eight. After high school graduation, he attended the University of Virginia, then went on to law school at George Washington University. As an attorney and CPA, he successfully practiced both professions in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas until he “semi-retired” and the couple moved to Lakewood Ranch in 2002. “It’s warm here,” he said. “My mother, Lynn’s parents, and other family members were here too, so it was a natural decision for us to come to Florida.”
“KBR Foundation has sponsored Camp Mariposa since I became involved with JFCS about four years ago. I was so impressed with the kids and their stories that I just had to find a way to help them,” Bornstein said.
“Many of the children share emotional hardships that arise out of a loved one’s addiction or substance misuse,” he said. “When parents are not able to care for their children, many live with a grandparent or other family members or are placed in foster care. But what got to me was that, despite their struggle, these kids seem happy and engaged when they are at Camp. The Camp is a way for these kids to escape the problems they face at home and, to some extent, even at school, and they learn coping skills. So, I decided this was something I wanted to be more actively involved with.”
The youth who attend Camp Mariposa participate in educational activities that are based on the 7 C’s: I didn’t Cause it, I can’t Control it, I can’t Cure it, but I can take Care of myself by Communicating my feelings, making good Choices, and Celebrating myself.
Bornstein added that the kids attend these transformational weekend camps just outside of Sarasota six times a year. Each session can accommodate 30 children with a staff-to-child ratio of 1:3. While campers participate in fun, traditional camp experiences, they are also learning necessary coping skills in sessions led by mental health professionals, trained mentors and therapeutic counselors. Additional programs are offered to campers and their families throughout the year. These activities include teen mentoring programs, caregiver education, and family fun days. The purpose is to create ongoing support and most importantly, to provide a continued connection. Bornstein said the Camp provides a safe, fun and supportive environment critical to helping to break the cycle of addiction, and he enjoys taking part in it beyond the monetary contributions his Foundation makes.
“For the past four years, I’ve gone up on Fridays, have dinner with the campers and then participate with them in their various learning programs,” Bornstein said. They often have outside volunteers to share interesting and unusual programs. The staff also spends a lot of time dealing with issues the kids face at home. “I do what I can as a volunteer to be there to help them in any way I can. One way is sharing personal experiences during my life. We reassure the kids that we know the kinds of situations that trouble them and let them know we’re here to make their lives better.”
Many campers have expressed to Joe how the camp has impacted their lives, “The Camp is a safe place from everything, our parents, bullies, anything. At Camp, we learn to deal with our situation, we can talk about our lives to others and have them understand what’s going on. Everything about this Camp is awesome and wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. For me this Camp lets me make the best friends I’ve ever had and it’s let me understand that what’s happening isn’t my fault.”
Bornstein added that Camp Mariposa, initially funded by The Moyer Foundation, has experienced a reduction in funding from that foundation and must identify alternative sources of funding. “The annual cost to operate the program is $150,000. KBR Foundation is committed to this program and encourages others in the community to join us and support these kids.” stated Bornstein.
“Kids who came the first time who were shy and introverted from the struggles they faced in their home life really opened up after a few sessions at Camp Mariposa,” he said. “They realized they’re not alone. They see other kids facing similar challenges and they really blossom. It’s amazing to see the transformation.”