Angela Patton learned that the mother of a girl in her Camp Diva summer program had terminal cancer, was unable to work and lacked medical insurance. So she rallied her network of resources to provide mother and daughter with hotel stays, food and clothing, and transportation to treatments in North Carolina. When the mother was hospitalized, Patton took the daughter into her home, supporting her for months and enrolling her in school.
“She basically took on another child,” recalls Jessica Smith, a Camp Diva board member and former intern for Patton. “She's a humanitarian, hands down.”
Patton founded Camp Diva in 2004. It's a five-week summer retreat and after-school program that aims to empower at-risk African-American girls — whom Patton calls “at-promise” because, she says, “I want them to see themselves as girls with potential within.” The program offers classes on topics such as healthy relationships, etiquette, financial management, holistic health, sewing and jewelry making. It also features meetings with black business leaders, college tours, and training in entrepreneurship and community service. Girls discuss goals, receive mentoring and assert independence by representing the program in the community.
Trained as a licensed practical nurse and a doula who assists pregnant women with pre- and post-natal care, Patton also serves on the board of the East District Family Resource Center and has worked for Art 180, the Children's Museum of Richmond, the YMCA and the Richmond AIDS Ministry. Patton founded a group called Spa Travelers for women battling poverty, domestic violence and single motherhood before deciding to tackle these issues at earlier life stages through Camp Diva: “The trauma always started as a child,” she says.
For Richmond's African-American girls, Patton says, Camp Diva is “always gonna keep the doors open” — a place where they can trust that “someone's in their corner.”