Every summer ‘New Day Camp’ in Oklahoma welcomes children with at least one incarcerated parent for a full week of fun activities and group sessions with the focus on breaking the cycle of incarceration.
However, one week was not enough to satisfy one councilor also a major with the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.
As first time camp councilor, Major Coy Jenkins knew working alongside kids with incarcerated parents would be a moving experience, in more ways than just one.
"I thought it would be important for me to try to find out where these guys were in that path and see what challenges they were undergoing and see if there was anything I could do about it," Jenkins said.
Those were challenges Jenkins knew all too well.
"My father was incarcerated was in federal penitentiary for 18 years," Jenkins said. "I was very fortunate to have grandparents that raised me."
Their relationship that changed his life.
"And I heard one of the boys say, 'Boy, I wish my dad wasn’t locked up in prison. I need a father figure. I need a role model,"'Jenkins said.
After hearing what the boy said, Jenkins felt he still had more to give.
Soon after camp ended, he called the boys’ guardians and arranged for each of them to spend a weekend with him and his family.
"Should I trust him? That was my first. Should I trust him? I don’t know, but it’s Coy," said Christian Lucas. "If it was anybody else I probably would have said no.
Like Jenkins, Lucas’ father was also in prison.
"It’s hard when your father is incarcerated," Jenkins said. "I remember those weekends when we had to drive to see him with my family and we would have to drive 4 or 5 hours just to see him."
"It’s better," said Lucas. "He’s out now and everything’s been good for him. He’s working. He got a job and just trying to get back out into the real world."
While things are going back to normal for some, Jenkins wants each of the boys to know he’s always just a phone call away.
"A couple of them, their parents made some poor decisions," Jenkins said. "I think, wow! What if they had been able to call someone before that?"
"I like having people I can trust and have more than just my family to be around," Lucas said.
Jenkins wants them to know their parents' situation does not define them.
"It absolutely does not define you," said Jenkins. "You define yourself and I’m going to be there to help redefine your life."
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