Camp Noah Visits Moore, Prepares Children For Tornado Season
MOORE, Oklahoma - Preparing for tornado season is a good thing but can also be frightening for some of our smallest tornado survivors. To help kids get ready, a national preparedness camp made its way to Oklahoma this week.
A camp unlike any other, Camp Noah has helped more than 10,000 children in 26 states and Puerto Rico learn how to cope with disaster and be prepared for when storms strike again.
"I just don't like tornados," 8-year-old camp participant Casey Graves said.
"It helps you get ready for tornado season and helps you not be afraid," Graves said about Camp Noah.
Camp Noah set up shop at First Church Moore for a week filled with activities.
"Disaster can be really isolating, so it's really great to give them a chance to say, I'm not by myself in the midst of it, I have peers around me," said Cari Logan, the national program manager for Camp Noah.
"We play, we color, we talk about life before and after disaster and look to the future and how to approach it without anxiety or worry," Logan said.
With some help from Noah himself, Campers take the classic story of the Ark and apply the idea that preparation is everything.
"And it's kind of neat to see Noah, the old 600-year-old guy out cutting a rug with them or playing volleyball or different recreation games," Jackie Jacobs of Joplin, who dressed up as Noah, said.
"When they come in here, you can see they're all kinds of tense," said Jacobs. "But as the camp rolls on, especially as they kind of tell their stories, they relax... it's the things that adults, we just kind of process and move on; but these children, they don't know quite how, so we give them techniques so they can cope."
12-year-old Gracie Jackson was in the camp three years ago after she was buried under rubble during the Joplin tornado.
"I've been through what they've been through, and I went through the camp, and it helped me a lot," said Jackson. "So I wanted to give back, so they can move on better and not be as anxious when storms come."
"I know it helped me calm down and not be as anxious and worried about it, because before I was like really I didn't know what to do," said Jackson. "I was panicking, and I still feel anxious but not as where I was freaking out before."
Jackson and her mother Nancy Northup traveled from Joplin to Moore to be camp volunteers. In the tornado, they lost their car and their church, Harmony Heights Baptist Church.
"I saw that anxiety with my daughter and like how the children can come to camp, and they can talk about those things and open up to the teachers and leaders, in a way that they can't do at home yet," Northup said.
From puppet shows to skits, carnivals and talent shows, each camper does an array activities. They all share their own storm story and are equipped with several coping strategies.
"Whenever we get scared, they told us about the safe spot and told us to just close your eyes and think about your safe spot," 9-year-old camper Alhajah McKinnon said.
Camp Noah started in 1997 in Minnesota and has helped kids after terrible flooding in the Red River Valley. The camp also helped children following Hurricane Katrina. Each camper walks away with a storm-prepped backpack and a blanket.
The camp is free to children in kindergarten to sixth grade.
Camp Noah will move on to Washington, Illinois next, which was hit by a tornado last November.
The camp will be back in Oklahoma this summer in Crutcho, El Reno and Lil Axe.