Meet Lizett: A real-life story of an Avary youth

When I was younger, when my dad became incarcerated and I was taken from my mom at age 8, I had to live in a foster home for a couple of years. I used to think I wasn't lovable, that I wasn't wanted or cared for, like I wasn't someone's child. I thought so much negative stuff about myself. Teachers called me a troubled kid. They put me in the back of the class.

No one really understood what I was going through. On family nights and for school events, other peoples' parents were there, but I didn't have anybody. A lot of people said I was going to wind up incarcerated like my dad and my uncles and my aunties. They told me I would be next.

The first time I went to the camp at Avary, it was something totally new for me - going to a place where I actually fit in, where people actually understood what I was going through.

Just knowing there were caring people there, and feeling understood, made me feel better. It's hard having a loved one incarcerated - I was my daddy's little girl, so when he got locked up, everything changed.

I was really quiet and scared when I first got to Avary, but one of the counselors made me laugh, made me feel welcome, and took me under her wing. Since then, I've always been laughing there! It took me about 3 years to actually be able to accept the fact that Avary people truly care for me and will always be there for me in my life. Once I did, I was the happiest person! Now, after 7 years of summer camps, monthly Adventure Days, and leadership retreats, I'm going to be a Cabin Intern this summer!

I am so looking forward to getting the kids to laugh and getting them excited for each day. My biggest goal is having them feel that we're here for them, that they don't have to be shy, nervous, or scared. Knowing that they have a second family and that they matter.

Avary has shown me how to choose a good path in life. I now feel like I'm a really good person, and I don't doubt myself as much. I'm working hard on my future career, taking higher classes, writing my resume, and going for may first part-time job. I'm continuing with my life and doing good, making my mom proud, my dad proud, and Camp Avary proud. Avary has had a huge impact on me.

So helping out Avary with your support means that you're helping kids like me, day by day, change their lives, pursue a good path, and become better people. Please make your contribution today - camp will be here soon!

Lizett Elias



We leave for camp in less than ONE MONTH. This year we have 25 brand new 8-10 year old participants that will step off the bus at Camp Avary for the very first time.  From here, we will be with them until they are 18 years old and beyond. Stay on this journey with us. Help us put these kids on a truer path. Watch them grow into strong, resilient, and thriving young adults like Lizett, and help us make this year's camp the best one yet.


Thank you!

Who Will Hug Me While Mommy's In Prison?

This Mother's Day, as we celebrate the importance of motherhood, we ask you to remember the mothers we've lost to incarceration and the children at home who feel their loss every day.


"If she isn't here to love me, who will?" -Joseph

If she isn’t here to love me, who will?” Joseph Gladney, 18, asked himself this question for the first time at age 4, when his mother was thrown into the back of a police car and hauled off to jail. Joseph’s mother wrestled with drug addiction, and it was one of many times throughout Joseph’s childhood he would witness his mother’s arrest. “It was hard to watch, but it was even harder to live without her. We didn’t know where we would be living, and I often blocked most of my memories just to cope with the pain.”

Joseph is one of over 5 million kids who have lost a parent to incarceration, and one of many who have lost their primary caregiver, their mother, to the cycle of mass imprisonment.  In fact, women make up the the fastest growing prison population, with the number of female prisoners more than doubling in the 1990s, then soaring from 12,000 to over 90,000 in 20 years. Over 60% of those women are mothers.

There is a true human cost to this trend, one that is far greater than those directly impacted by incarceration: neighborhoods and communities are ripped apart, schools are over-policed, and lasting financial burdens are carried by those left to pick up the pieces.  The greatest disruption, however, is to the family circle. When a parent, particularly a mother, gets caught up in the cycle of incarceration, their children suffer immense loss: loss of stability, protection, and motherly attachment, which is essential to healthy development. Our attachment to our parental figures, especially our attachment to our mothers, is a vital force in our ability to learn, grow, and cultivate thriving relationships. “I just wanted her all the time,” Elexia P., 15, said. Elexia also lost her mother to incarceration at a young age. “I would find myself waiting for her to come home, and after she didn’t, I lost hope. I didn’t trust anyone.”

Children face formidable challenges when they lose a parent to incarceration, and, despite children of incarcerated parents being one of the most at-risk youth populations, they are often overlooked. “We want to be treated with support, not neglect,” Joseph went on. “Even if we have a relationship with our parent, they can’t physically be here to help us. We need the support of our community: Hug me. Motivate me. Tell me I’m going to be OK, and just maybe I will be.  Elexia and Joseph have both faced immeasurable hardship as a result of their mothers’ imprisonment, but they have grown to become thriving young adults, thanks to the intervention Project Avary.  “We work to help children impacted by parental incarceration to heal from the trauma,” Project Avary Executive Director, Zach Whelan, said. “There is a lot of shame, stigma, and isolation that comes with having a parent in prison, and often these children are carrying out an invisible sentence alongside their parents. We help them heal and support them in fostering connections, so they can become healthy and happy young adults and not fall into the same cycles of harm as their parents.”  Project Avary is committed to ending cycles of incarceration and provides a 10-year commitment of year-round service to each child in the program

“I’m so grateful for Project Avary as they have been there for me when my mom couldn’t be. But love climbs walls and even when my mom is not around, I can still feel her there. I love her,” Joseph spoke of his mother. “I believe it’s important we celebrate our mothers, and all the people that serve as mother figures in our lives, that we say thank you to all those that have let us know that we're loved, we're worthy, and that we matter.”

Join us this month in a continued celebration of mothers: those near, far, here, and gone.


Join us as we bring back family camp, an important and invaluable opportunity to give our youth and their caregivers the chance to build healthy relationships and attachments.


Join us as we continue to grow strong, resilient, and thriving young adults.


It takes a village, but together, we can break the cycle!

Will you join us?