Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota

Success Stories

Residential Programs For Children & Youth, Canyon Hills

Two groups of kids set out for camping trips from Lutheran Social Services' Canyon Hills residential treatment facility in Spearfish, SD. They were headed for Cook and Key Hole Lakes in Wyoming. The girls and their staff members went to one location and boys to another and except for three kids, none of them had been camping before in their lives.

Can you imagine reaching age 11, 12 or even 17 years old, and you have never been on a summer vacation trip?

The youth at Canyon Hills have missed out on more than summer fun, however. These are young people with increasingly severe and complex emotional, behavioral, and psychiatric disorders. Most come from backgrounds involving neglect and abuse. In 2007, Canyon Hills served 75 boys and girls.

For three days, these 21 young people were allowed to finally experience what many South Dakota kids take for granted in the summer - sleeping in a tent, swimming in a lake, sitting around a campfire, and fishing. When asked what she likes best about camping, one of the campers said, "Everything! Well, maybe the fishing."

"They did do a lot of fishing," says Troy Hoppes, director of Canyon Hills. "They caught thirty-five fish!"

Canyon Hills utilizes therapeutic recreation like this camping trip as part of its comprehensive treatment program to help youth develop the skills needed to eventually return to their families and communities. Over the last several years, 75 percent of the youth in LSS residential treatment programs have succeeded in making the transition to a less restrictive environment.