Camp Reward Brings Families Together; the Empowered Parents Project Teaches Parenting

Article excerpt

Byline: LYNN SKAPYAK HARLIN

The Empowered Parents Project's third annual Camp Reward recently honored families at Jacksonville Skeet and Trap Club in North Jacksonville, with about 125 families getting to shoot, eat barbecue and watch a Jacksonville Sheriff's K-9 demonstration.

"Camp Reward is our way to show families it pays to make good choices. Empowered Parents doesn't fix problem children. It teaches skills so parents become better parents," said Glenn Ellison, founder and CEO of Empowered Parents.

Northside resident C.J. Wright, a facilitator in Empowered Parents, said she started out as "just another screwed-up parent."

She remembers thinking: "I can't do this again. I'm parenting the same way, getting the same miserable results."

Her daughter Jesse, then 5, was in trouble in school nearly every day.

"She argued with everything I said; nothing ever went smoothly," Wright said.

She attended a conference at First Coast Christian Center in the summer of 2006 and knew she'd found a new way to parent. Wright explained that Empowered Parents is structured as a three-pronged approach.

The parents go to a conference to learn the basics and catch a glimpse of hope. They attend weekly parent support meetings, where they work together, with the book as a guide to come up with strategies.

"It's really the synergy of parents of children of all ages, all walks of life coming together, brainstorming. There are no experts here, just the curriculum and the desire to be better parents," Wright said.

Then the family attends Camp Consequence, a weekend without the luxuries of home at a wilderness camp where they cut trails, clear brush and help the forestry service maintain the environment.

Glenn Ellison said children need a chance to give back.

"Working at Camp Consequence not only helps children understand that every behavior has a consequence, it can also help children feel better about themselves," Ellison said.

"Jesse was the youngest to survive Camp Consequence," C.J. Wright said. "Life isn't perfect at my house, but I no longer parent from emotions or overlook bad behavior. ... Peace is the norm in our home now. …