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Addiction Prevention and Youth Support Programs Have a Home at Aaron’s Place

Addiction and substance use disorder (SUD) have a ripple effect that unfortunately stretches across generations. Overdose Lifeline recognizes the generational trauma associated with SUD and the importance of youth prevention efforts as an educational deterrent to addiction as well as a local support system for those dealing with addiction at home. This is why we created Aaron’s Place, a year-round addiction prevention and mentoring program. Camp Mariposa is for those aged 9-12 and comprises weekend sessions held six times a year. Aaron’s Place: Exchange (APEX) is for those 13-17 and is an online therapeutic intervention and mentoring program.

These programs utilize community support, mentorship, mental health resources, and social activities geared toward steering the next generation away from the harmful mental, physical, and spiritual effects of addiction and SUD stigma. 

About Aaron’s Place

Camp Mariposa® Indianapolis and Camp Mariposa® Southern Indiana was created and is supported in part by Eluna. Eluna is a public, 501(c)(3) non-profit with a mission to support children and families impacted by grief or addiction. Founded in 2000 in Seattle by former MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer and child advocate Karen Phelps Moyer, Eluna was originally called The Moyer Foundation and launched a series of programs supporting thousands of children and families annually at no cost to them. Camp Erin® is the largest national network of grief programs for bereaved children and teens, Camp Mariposa® is a national addiction prevention and mentoring program for youth impacted by a family member’s substance use disorder, and the Eluna Resource Center offers online tools, local referrals and personalized phone and email support for families experiencing grief, addiction and other related issues. For more information, please visit elunanetwork.org.

Addressing Addiction and SUD Prevention in Both Youth Programs

As with any camp, school, or program, it can be challenging for youth to adjust to a new social setting, especially one centered on such an impactful topic as addiction and youth prevention. ODL developed Aaron’s Place with these barriers in mind, creating a structured and supportive program designed to not only educate but also make participants feel comfortable, involved, and, most importantly, seen and heard. 

Both Camp Mariposa and APEX are always free of charge. All participants can find community with their fellow participants and dedicated mentors with no barrier to entry. There have been instances of participants asking about payment out of concern about the financial hardships facing their families. This is where the invaluable support of our local communities comes in, allowing children to participate in these life-saving programs without carrying the guilt of putting their families in a bad position. 

We instill meaningful communication practices to empower participants to find a network of peers dealing with similar circumstances. By developing intentional communication tools, participants can develop long-term relationship-building and problem-solving skills that aid in overcoming challenging situations surrounding addiction. There is also an emphasis on the power of individual choices, giving participants the understanding that they have the power to make positive decisions that keep them away from harmful behaviors and thought patterns.  leading them down the wrong path. 

Camp Mariposa and APEX differ in their methods based on the age and maturity of the participants, but the core themes and messaging remain the same. Both programs delve into reducing shame and stigma related to the addiction of a family member while giving participants positive reinforcement about making the right choices as they navigate life. 

Leaning on Each Other to Create More Success Stories

Part of the beauty of Aaron’s Place is the support built in through each other. Participants who have been in the program for a year, two years, or longer can share their positive experiences to inspire newcomers. Each participant has their own vulnerable story, and it is incredibly rewarding to watch those new to the program drop their guard and open up with the support of older participants. 

We’ve seen participants step up into leadership roles as they guide their peers through social activities, coping exercises, and other development programs. Another significant impact of both Camp Mariposa and APEX is how it pulls family members into the fold. We’ve seen family members who at first seemed apprehensive about the program end up learning from the children and overcoming their own experiences with coping and traumas. While addiction and SUD may have negative ripples, the empowerment from both programs has its own positive ripple effect that can reverse generational trauma to bring families and communities closer together. 

Proof in Growth and Statistics

Out of all the participants who have come through Aaron’s Place, 95% have reported they have never used any substance to get high. 90% have said they developed strong relationships with mentors. 93% have not been involved in the juvenile justice system. 

And there are no signs of slowing. We’ve added 18 new participants in the last year! Camp Mariposa and APEX continue to flourish as ODL advances its youth prevention efforts throughout the state. However, the success of these programs would not be possible without the support of the surrounding community. 

If you would like to get involved in supporting Aaron’s Place and making it possible for at-risk youth to reshape their experience around addiction and SUD, you can learn more here

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