Children who've lost loved ones to violence find solace at Camp Sheilah

  • About two dozen children and teens who've lost a parent or sibling to violence will take part in Camp Sheilah next weekend. The three-day experience will mix traditional camp activities with group counseling and therapeutic programming.

    About two dozen children and teens who've lost a parent or sibling to violence will take part in Camp Sheilah next weekend. The three-day experience will mix traditional camp activities with group counseling and therapeutic programming. Courtesy of the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation

  • Overcoming challenges like a ropes course is part of the experience at Camp Sheilah next weekend. The three-day camp was created to help children and their families cope with the trauma of losing a parent or sibling to homicide.

    Overcoming challenges like a ropes course is part of the experience at Camp Sheilah next weekend. The three-day camp was created to help children and their families cope with the trauma of losing a parent or sibling to homicide. Courtesy of the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation

  • Participants climb rock walls and take on other challenges during Camp Sheilah, a three-day camp for children and teens who've lost a parent or sibling to violence. The camp will take place next weekend in the South suburbs.

    Participants climb rock walls and take on other challenges during Camp Sheilah, a three-day camp for children and teens who've lost a parent or sibling to violence. The camp will take place next weekend in the South suburbs. Courtesy of the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation

  • Federal customs agents seized this phony Drug Enforcement Administration badge at the international mail facility at O'Hare International Airport.

    Federal customs agents seized this phony Drug Enforcement Administration badge at the international mail facility at O'Hare International Airport. Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protections

 
Updated 8/20/2021 6:39 AM

We see reports of the tragic toll every Monday morning, almost like the scores from the previous day's ballgames. How many people were shot over the weekend. How many died.

What we don't often see is what happens next for those left behind, especially the children who've lost a parent or sibling to the violence.

 

Those children, and their long journeys to rebuilding their lives, will be the focus of a special camp held in the suburbs next weekend.

Camp Sheilah will welcome about two dozen kids ages 7 to 17 -- along with a few parents, grandparents and guardians -- for a free, three-day experience featuring camp staples like rock climbing, hiking, basketball, crafts and a bonfire, as well as group counseling sessions and art therapy projects.

"So many of them have suffered an incredible tragedy, and they're still grappling with it and they'll never get over the fact they lost a mother or father," said Dan Kotowski, president and CEO of Kids Above All, the Chicago-based organization that operates the camp. "What we've done with this camp is try to figure out a way to make sure that we're able to help these kids and families have a better life and help them to heal from extraordinarily awful circumstance."

The camp is named after Sheilah Doyle, a Palos Park woman murdered during a robbery in her garage in 1993. Her son Kevin, a teenager at the time, launched the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation in 2009 and started the camp soon after. Kids Above All, which works to help children affected by trauma and poverty, now runs the camp with its team of clinicians and other volunteers.

Overcoming challenges like a ropes course is part of the experience at Camp Sheilah next weekend. The camp was created to help kids cope with losing a parent or sibling to homicide.
Overcoming challenges like a ropes course is part of the experience at Camp Sheilah next weekend. The camp was created to help kids cope with losing a parent or sibling to homicide. - Courtesy of the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation
'It's life-changing'

A key part of the camp is bringing together children and teens from across the Chicago area who've dealt with the same trauma and are facing the same challenges. While they all have friends back home, few can identify closely with their experiences.

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"They have a place where they can go and they don't really have to explain themselves," Kotowski said. "People know and recognize that they've gone through something that no one else can truly understand, and that's losing somebody to a senseless act of violence. It's the only place for many of them where they actually feel comfortable, where they feel accepted, where they feel recognized for who they are."

The camp's theme this year is "My Story." The idea behind it is to make participants feel empowered to share their stories, talk about the people they've lost and honor their memories.

"What this camp gives them is an opportunity to kind of get at their trauma in a different way," Kotowski said. "Ultimately, in many cases, it's life-changing, because this has really been the first place where they can go and they can feel like they can actually be themselves, and they can test themselves in a safe way, so they can begin to live their life in a way that honors the people who are no longer here, and also feel good about where they're headed."

For more about Kids Above All, including how to volunteer or donate, visit www.kidsaboveall.org.

Coffee, cops and a good cause

If you're not reading this too late in the day today, there's still time to head to your local Dunkin' Donuts to meet with some of your community's police officers and support a good cause.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Some 300 Dunkin' Donuts across the state are teaming up with local police departments for the 2021 Coffee for Champions event -- formerly known as Cop on a Rooftop. Starting at 5 a.m. and running until noon, officers will meet with customers and accept donations for Special Olympics Illinois.

Customers who make a donation will receive a coupon for a free doughnut. Those who donate $10 or more will receive a Law Enforcement Torch Run travel mug, while supplies last, and a coupon for a free medium hot coffee.

Over a nearly two-decade partnership, police have raised more than $5.75 million for Special Olympics Illinois through the Law Enforcement Torch Run, Dunkin' Donuts events and other fundraisers.

This year's goal is to take in more than $870,000 to support Special Olympians. For a list of participating locations, visit https://tinyurl.com/v5xrc66w.

Ryan Barrett
Ryan Barrett
Suspect in fatal road rage case wants to travel

Ryan Barrett, one of three men charged with second-degree murder in a June "road rage" case in West Dundee, is asking a Kane County judge for permission to travel out of state for work.

Judge Salvatore LoPiccolo is scheduled to consider the request Aug. 27.

In a court filing, Barrett, 32, of Huntley, said he needs to travel because his business, Barrett Remodeling Inc., installs rubberized sports flooring throughout the Midwest and he has to supervise the work.

Barrett, Kurt E. Doporcyk of Sleepy Hollow and Peter D. Stoyshich of Belize and Tallahassee, Florida, are accused of fatally beating and kicking Alex T. Hall Jr. outside a gas station June 10. Hall, a Carpentersville resident, died of blunt-trauma injuries to his neck, according to the Kane County coroner.

Doporcyk, like Barrett, is free on $15,000 bond. Stoyshich remains at large.

Federal customs agents seized this phony FBI badge at the international mail facility at O'Hare International Airport.
Federal customs agents seized this phony FBI badge at the international mail facility at O'Hare International Airport. - Courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protections
Bogus badges at O'Hare

A law enforcement badge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing. That's why federal authorities were relieved over the weekend when U.S. Customs officers at the O'Hare International Airport intercepted several packages from China that contained counterfeit Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI badges.

The parcels, seized Aug. 13 and 15, were destined for locations across the U.S., officials said.

"These counterfeit badges could have led to disastrous consequences if our officers had not found them," LaFonda Sutton-Burke, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protections' Chicago office, said in an announcement of the seizure.

"Criminal organizations could have used these badges for their illicit activity under the guise of federal agents. Our CBP officers were able to identify these very realistic counterfeits and stop them from reaching their destinations."

• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com.

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