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Summer camp helps heal Harvey's trauma in children

A different type of summer camp is healing the trauma Tropical Storm Harvey caused in boys and girls in Orange County.

The recovery group Orange County Disaster Rebuild received a grant that funds the week-long camp.

The focus is not the physical damage the storm caused. Camp Noah is aimed at healing the emotional scars Harvey has left behind in children.

"It was very scary," said Lila Lee.

Tropical Storm Harvey remains a vivid image in Lila Lee's memory.

"My mommy and daddy woke me up very, very early in the morning, like probably at 3 a.m."

In the next hours, the Bridge City Elementary student would endure hardships not many adults have experienced.

"Our house started getting flooded and then we had to stay in our attic for the rest of the night."

Eventually, Lila and her family were rescued.

"A boat with two guys picked us up and brought us to the side of the railroad tracks close to our road. Then there was a truck there and it brought us to our church."

Not all of Harvey's youngest survivors can talk about the ordeal as easily as Lila.

This week, North Orange Baptist Church is offering a safe haven to these children, and it's not the first time.

"God spared us the damage of the storm," said Pastor Chip Anthony. "We had a few small things go wrong in it, so it's allowed us to open our doors to people. We served meals here for several weeks, hosted schools for the whole school year."

Now Pastor Chip Anthony and his church are hosting Camp Noah. It's a different type of summer camp. Kids race, do crafts and face paint, but also learn to let go of the trauma natural disasters can cause.

"Kids are just explaining so many great stories about what they have been through and being able to share that and talk about it," said Carrie Stiles.

Guiding them through this journey, teenagers volunteering from two churches in Minnesota who're trained to get the young storm victims to share their feelings. At the same time, the volunteers say the stories of survival inspire them.

"It really shows you how much kids can go through," said Colby Johnson. "How much they keep it down inside and don't tell anybody because they don't want to hurt other people. They want to go about it like I can handle this, and they don't have time to be a kid when they're going through this kind of trauma. So when they get here, they get that, and it's awesome too, because you get to be a part of them changing and going through what they need to go through."

Just two days into Camp Noah, Lila feels like the camp's namesake-a flood survivor.

"It helps me kind of forget about the flood," said Lila.

All the children leave the camp with survival kits as proof they're ready for anything.

"I'm somebody special," said Lila.

In the coming weeks, Camp Hope will be offered to young Harvey survivors in Lumberton and Sour Lake.

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