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Tribute to their late child, family creates camp for at-risk youth

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SPRING BAY (HOI) -- Camp Dallas is set to open this summer for at-risk children and teenagers in Central Illinois. It's a community effort to continue the legacy of Dallas Atherton, who was 19-years-old when he took his own life in 2007.

His mother, Patty Atherton, said the property in Spring Bay made Dallas his happiest. She said it made the perfect location to help others who struggle like her son did.

"I want them to feel exactly what Dallas felt when he was riding his four wheeler," said Patty Atherton.

The camp at Sankoty Lakes Resort will include all activities nature has to offer including fishing, kayaking and more while staying in a brand new cabin.

"My goal is to create a place that people that are struggling and having a hard time want to be here," said Dallas' father, Dwayne Atherton.

The Atherton's said they created a 'dream team' to bring this project to life. It included Carl Cannon, founder of Elite Youth Outreach, who will be responsible for programming at the camp.

Cannon said Camp Dallas killed the factors most at risk youth can not escape. Those factors are poverty, geography and dysfunction.

"(Children and teenagers) Who need a second chance, a third chance, I don't know what number it is, but they lose excuses when we can get back into nature," said Cannon.

Patty Atherton said the camp is about paying it forward. They will fundraise to help cover costs for people who could not afford to stay there otherwise.

"It's endless what they could have offered to them because of this," Patty Atherton continued, "Our reality is that we wake up everyday without Dallas. So, if we could make somebodies reality different than that, from all this hard work, it'd be worth it."

She wants children to realize there's a future far different than their current situation. For more information about Camp Dallas, visit their website.

Paige Blanzy

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