Peter and Bonnie Prietto have attended Royal Family Kids’ Camp every year for the past 16 years, serving in roles ranging from Camp Director, Counselor, Lifeguard, and more. In August, they returned to camp for another year of serving the foster youth of Orange County and growing as followers of a God.
Peter shares a bit about his time at camp this year, “This year we had 75 kids attend camp. I had the pleasure of meeting Jason this year. Jason is a basketball playing, 11-year-old from a foster home in Moreno Valley. He was playing PIG with two of the male counselors as I walked onto the court and he begged to play a game of 2:2. So, I’m guarding him at the top of the key, all the while his trash talk is running so I give it right back, “I’ll just overplay your right because I know you can’t go left.” He played the ball between my legs and went by me like lightning but he dropped the ball out of bounds, so I saved face. The next time though, he throws a move so quick, I trip over my own feet, go down on the court scraping my knee and he goes in for the easy layup. I am on the ground, laughing out loud and screaming, “Elder abuse! Elder abuse!” This is why we go to camp. It’s all good fun!”
The reality of these kid’s lives does eventually set in, however. One night, while reading to the kids before they went to sleep, which is one of Peter’s favorite things to do, a little boy shared that his mother had died. “These kids have been hurt, so they hurt others. The little boy cried quietly in his bunk. His hurt touched my heart – every child should have a mother. It’s stunning what a difference a tender touch makes to someone who has had very few and may not have a family. Having these heartfelt and vulnerable experiences is another reason why we go to camp,” Peter shares.
But though there is heartache, there is also joy. There are laughter and dancing and silly moments. The children all learn about Jesus and they cherish their Bibles. They race pinewood derby cars and make doll cradles and paint and dress-up for tea party. They learn archery and have stories with “grandma and grandpa” (an older couple who attend camp each year). Most of all, they leave with a photo album of all their fun memories, and photos of themselves having fun.
The reality of the foster care system and the youth who grow up within it is sometimes grim, but programs like Royal Family Kids’ Camp shine light into that darkness. Peter continues, “Perhaps the most consistent charge to those who worship the God of Israel and follow Jesus of Nazareth is to care for the widow and the orphan. Thank you to those who have served this year and all other years.”