Eli's life is a nightmare. His mother is a drug addict who neglects his care, and his transient father floats in and out of his life. Eli is filled with rage from the physical abuse he has received from his father but he longs for his love and approval. On his 10th birthday Eli is taken to the hospital by police who respond to a domestic disturbance call. Eli is removed from his home and is placed in Locustwood, a facility little better than a youth prison. In this environment Eli spirals downward, becoming an angry and scared creature.
Meanwhile, to impress a potential new client, investment advisor Ken Matthews signs up to be a camp counselor and gets paired with Eli. When the kids arrive at camp, the chaos begins. Ken and Eli bunk in a cabin with counselor Samuel, back from his second tour of duty in the army, and Redford, a kid who thinks he is an alien. Determined to hate camp, Eli is way more than Ken can handle.
Over the course of camp, Ken’s heart is broken as he learns about Eli's dark past. Eli slowly opens up to Ken as he starts to love Eli unconditionally. Eli begins to have hope.
An unauthorized visit from Eli’s father to camp sends everything spiraling out of control. Now Ken must decide what he is willing to sacrifice so Eli will understand the meaning of unconditional love.
How camp inspired a movie
A half dozen years ago, while on a church staff, I was “required” to join a summer missions trip. I noticed in the bulletin an opportunity to help abused and neglected kids ages 9-12 through a program called Royal Family Kids Camp. I thought to myself, “The last time I spent time with a 9-year-old is when I was nine.” I NEVER went to the part of the building labeled “children’s ministry” even when there weren’t kids there.
Then, in my heart, I felt the call to go help these kids. The call went against my wiring. I did not work with kids. But I also knew better than to ignore what could be a divine prompting. I still resisted interaction with children, many orphaned, who desperately need contact with loving, caring adults. Because I was on church staff, I was considered a “leader” and was given a role as support staff. I was relieved I wouldn't be responsible for any campers.
However, when we arrived at camp, more boys showed up that we anticipated. We needed more men counselors or some boys would have to go home. Reluctantly, I was made a counselor.
I had two campers, Brandon and Angel. That week became the hardest and yet the best week of my life. I learned what it meant to love kids that no one else wanted.
The camp experience, learning to care for the fatherless, has become the heart of the story we want to tell with our film. Why was it so hard for me to connect with kids? Where did the wall come from? Why is it so hard for men to step into the place of father? “Father” is a very difficult idea for many men. For me, divorce separated my father from me for much of my childhood. My father never knew his father and sometimes felt ill equipped to be one, but he always told me he loved me.
Of course these kids, having never heard these words, become hard, angry and difficult. At camp we get an opportunity to give unconditional love to those who are seemingly unlovable. And, in return, we learn we have the capacity to love at a depth we never experienced before.
It is our hope this film will inspire people to open their hearts to forgotten children who need adults in their lives.
See you at the Movies,
Who is Royal Family KIDS?
Royal Family Kids, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is the nation’s leading network of camps for abused, neglected and abandoned children. By mobilizing local churches to sponsor a one-week camp for abused and neglected children ages 7-11 in their local community, RFKC gets caring adults involved in the lives of children who need them most. Each camp has two very simple goals: make positive childhood memories for the kids and let them experience unconditional love from an adult. Many volunteers who go to camp are inspired to become mentors, become foster parents and even adopt children who need a loving, caring family.