Summer programs become outlet for at-risk kids


The kids at BCFS learn about music and the visual arts from visiting artists in BCFS’s therapeutic recreation program. Musicians from the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music have visited the campus in recent months.

BUCKHORN, Ky. (July 7, 2015) — The staff at Buckhorn Children & Family Services (BCFS) has found new and innovative ways to bring help and healing to at-risk kids.

With special summer programs and year-round therapeutic recreation or “expressive therapies,” which include art, music, and drama, the kids at BCFS, many of whom have experienced severe abuse and neglect, are able to express their innermost thoughts and feelings.

“They like it. They really do,” said John Craft, a music teacher in BCFS’s Halfway to Hazard (H2H) Music Therapy Program. “One of the things that everybody has noticed is that the kids have taken to it. It gets their attention, and they look forward to it.”

In fact, Craft said some of the kids have shown natural ability on the instruments, especially the guitar, and nearly all of them have participated in songwriting.

The program, which officials at BCFS have said they hope to expand, gives the kids a needed sense of accomplishment and confidence, according to Craft.

“One of Dessie Scott’s recent graduates was asked by a school board member to name what he liked most about the program,” Craft said. “He said he learned how to play guitar and got his high school diploma.”

In the future, Craft said BCFS wishes to gain the funding needed to create a center for expressive therapies, but, in the meantime, staff will continue to invite a wide range of visiting professional and amateur musicians, artists, and other groups to their campuses.

Another project that’s become popular with the kids, Craft said, is a small, makeshift library, developed through a partnership with Perry County Public Library.

“These kids really wanted books, especially back when it was cold,” he said. “It’s actually almost time to get another round of books from the public library.”

“We’d eventually like to have a better, bigger space for the kids to enjoy reading and watching DVDs,” Craft continued. “Having a place like that would help whenever a kid is having a bad day and would rather not participate in the music program. It gives them something else to do.”

And finding things to do with the kids is a challenge throughout the summer months, Craft noted. BCFS’s campuses are located in rural areas, so Craft said he and other staff members have to get inventive when it comes to brainstorming ways to keep the kids entertained and learning.

“We try to have activities for them to do so they don’t have to sit in a cottage all day,” Craft mentioned. “We have sports, and we’ve been taking them hiking and on outings where they can see other things.”

Many of BCFS’s 100 residential kids, who hail from all across the state of Kentucky, are from the inner city, Craft said, with a large number of them coming from Louisville, Lexington, and Frankfort. Hiking is not something they’re used to, but Craft said it teaches these kids, who are used to blacktop and concrete, about endurance and not giving up.

There are plans in place, Craft said, to expand this aspect of BCFS’s summer programs into a wilderness experience, featuring camping and a more extensive trail system.

BCFS has also just hired Kaylee Nappo, an Indiana native and graduate of Western Carolina University, as its very first director of therapeutic recreation, which, according to program administrators, indicates their dedication to sustaining and expanding such therapies.

For now, though, BCFS is in great need of volunteers to help them devise and carry out programs for the kids. Local church groups visit regularly, but Craft indicated that there is a shortage of volunteers for day-to-day activities. Staff members cover everything, but more helping hands would be a blessing, Craft said.

“What would these kids do without places like this?” Craft said. “It keeps them out of juvenile detention and improves their lives.”

For more information about summer programs and expressive therapies at BCFS, or to volunteer, contact John Craft at 606-398-7000 or via email at john.craft@buckhorn.org.

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