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Camp Mariposa

  • Need: To help children whose family members are struggling with substance use.
  • Intervention: A year-round program provides mentoring as well as substance use prevention education.
  • Results: In 2019, Camp Mariposa served a total of 81 youth in its two rural locations in Kentucky and West Virginia.


The nonprofit organization Eluna created Camp Mariposa® to support children whose family members are struggling with substance use or are in recovery. The program offers weekend camps every other month throughout the year and helps children understand that addiction is a disease, meet other children going through a similar experience, and learn about coping skills and substance use prevention.

Camp Mariposa participants

The free weekend camp sessions serve youth ages 9-12. Youth, their families, and trained adult mentors make a one-year commitment to the program. Program alumni (ages 13-17) can come back as Junior Counselors. In addition to the camp weekends, Camp Mariposa offers fun activities for families and teens in the months in between.

Of the 13 Camp Mariposa locations, two are in rural communities:

  • Irvine, Kentucky
  • Princeton, West Virginia

Services offered

Camp Mariposa is free for all participants. Campers have access to the following services and opportunities from trained volunteers and mental health professionals:

  • Coping skills
  • Mentorship
  • Mindfulness activities like deep breathing and yoga
  • Signs of Suicide, which screens campers for depression and suicidal thoughts and teaches them how to identify symptoms and harmful behaviors in themselves and others
  • Substance use prevention education
  • Traditional camp activities


Camp Mariposa butterly painting

In 2019, Camp Mariposa served a total of 81 youth in Kentucky and West Virginia. These youth participated as campers, Junior Counselors, and younger family members who attended family activities. In addition, there were 30 trained adult mentors and 18 adult family members who participated in the family activities. In 2020, Camp Mariposa plans to open a second location in West Virginia and a new location in eastern Tennessee.

In a study of the Camp Mariposa locations in general, participants reported the following in 2019:

  • 98% had not been involved in the juvenile justice system
  • 95% had not used any substance to get high
  • 95% have made friends through this program
  • 95% have found trusting adults at Camp Mariposa
  • 92% said they can name two self-care strategies
  • 93% said they have learned strategies at camp that they can use at home


One of the most significant barriers in bringing Camp Mariposa to rural communities was overcoming the stigma around substance use disorders. Many attendees live with grandparents and it was critical to get the adults' buy-in so they would enroll their grandkids.

A second challenge was recruiting enough mentors. It is critical to engage schools, churches, and other youth service providers in order to staff the weekend camp sessions.


Eluna partners with youth-focused organizations to bring Camp Mariposa to communities across the country. The most successful Camp Mariposa locations have broad community support with multiple individuals and groups working together to raise funding and implement the program.

Anyone interested in bringing Camp Mariposa to their community can contact Eluna. Eluna staff can provide more information as well as ongoing support to assist with bringing Camp Mariposa to your community.

Contact Information

Brian Maus, Director of Addiction Prevention and Mentoring Programs
Eluna Network
Camp Mariposa

Children and youth
Substance use and misuse

States served
Kentucky, West Virginia

Date added
May 14, 2020

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Camp Mariposa [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 16 October 2021]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.