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Rural Health Information Hub

Camp Mariposa

  • Need: To help children whose family members are struggling with substance misuse.
  • Intervention: A year-round program provides mentoring as well as substance use prevention education.
  • Results: In 2022, Camp Mariposa served a total of 123 youth in its four rural locations in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In a study, 93% of participants reported no use of any substance to get high.


The nonprofit organization Eluna created Camp Mariposa® to support children whose family members are struggling with substance misuse or are in recovery. Founded in 2007, Camp Mariposa is an award-winning addiction prevention and mentoring program with 18 locations across the U.S. 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 continue participating in the program as Junior Counselors and can attend teen-specific programs in some locations. In addition to the camp weekends, Camp Mariposa offers fun activities for families in the months in between camp weekends.

Of the 18 Camp Mariposa locations, four are in rural communities:

  • Bloomfield, Indiana
  • Irvine, Kentucky
  • Dandridge, Tennessee
  • 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
  • Creative arts activities
  • 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
  • Too Good for Drugs, an evidence-based substance use prevention curriculum
  • Traditional camp activities


Camp Mariposa butterly painting

In 2022, Camp Mariposa served a total of 123 youth in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. These youth participated as campers, Junior Counselors, and younger family members who attended family activities. In addition, there were 50 trained adult mentors and 50 adult family members who participated in the family activities. In 2023, Camp Mariposa plans to open a new location in the rural upstate region of South Carolina.

In a study of the Camp Mariposa locations in general, participants surveyed during camp weekends reported the following in 2022:

  • 97% said there are adults they trust at Camp Mariposa
  • 95% had not been involved in the juvenile justice system
  • 95% have made friends through this program
  • 88% said they can name two self-care strategies
  • 84% said they have learned a lot participating in Camp Mariposa


One of the most significant barriers in bringing Camp Mariposa to rural communities is 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.

A third challenge in rural communities is transportation to program activities.


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
Camp Mariposa

Children and youth
Substance use and misuse
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention

States served
Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia

Date added
May 14, 2020

Date updated or reviewed
August 22, 2023

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. Camp Mariposa [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 22 June 2024]

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.