10/31/2014

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Foster siblings split up by adoption reunite at summer camp

Foster siblings split up by adoption reunite at summer camp

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- It's only a week-long summer camp, but the time spent is precious to Kyler South and Kimmie Helensky. The teenagers are brother and sister, but they got split apart years ago by the state foster care system, and now they've been adopted by different families.

Camp to Belong, outside Port Orchard, gives them a chance to remember the way they were, and begin to build a future.

"I wait for this camp every year," said 14-year-old Kimmie. "I count down the days."

The annual summer camp is just as meaningful to Danny and David Berger, Sida Chhun, Erick Stauffer, and Sophy Yamane - four brothers and a sister who have lived apart the past eight years after being adopted into different homes.

"It's like what we used to be," said 15-year-old Sophy of her brothers. "Wake up, see them. Go to bed, see them. It's just special."

This year, Camp to Belong is hosting 88 foster children, and siblings are encouraged to stick together. The camp offers sports, archery, swimming and boating, as well as special events like a formal dance, activities to encourage bonding, and life skills coaching. For most kids, however, that's not why they come.

"It's a camp where you come together, become a family almost, become a family again," said 16-year-old Sida Chun.

Sida and his brothers manage to get together about once a month, but because of foster care arrangements, camp is their only opportunity to see their sister.

"Without this camp we would barely ever get to see Sophy, like once a year," said 10-year-old Danny Berger, holding tight to his big sister.

Camp to Belong also gives these kids a chance to catch up and marvel at how much each has changed - sometimes dramatically - between infrequent visits.

It is only a week, but for siblings who are split apart, it can change a lifetime.

Camp to Belong is run by a non-profit called Foster Family Connections. The group survives through volunteers and donation.

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