Scientists, doctors and policy makers sometimes struggle to effectively define addiction. Seven-year-old Matthew D. pretty much nails it, in one breath. "Addiction is a big disease that really just messes with people's heads and they can't think straight." There you have it. From the mouth of a child who grew up in a home with alcoholism and who worried about what in heaven's name he'd done to bring it on and what he could possibly do to make it stop. Lots of Kids Need Help At the recommendation of his elementary school counselor, Matthew attended the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Children's Program. The three-day camp helps kids ages 7-12 learn to safely navigate the challenges of growing up in a family impacted by addiction. One of the biggest discoveries for Matthew was realizing he wasn't alone. "The first day I was kind of nervous but then we introduced ourselves and told each other about the person we loved who was sick. It felt so good to be with kids who knew how I felt and knew what I was going through." Until that point, Matthew hadn't imagined that other children might be facing some of the same worries. "The counselors told us 3 out of 7 kids have addiction in their family! I couldn't believe it. I have 20 kids in my classroom and 623 kids in my school, so that's a lot of kids who might have addiction in their family. Think about that!" Matthew has certainly been thinking about those other kids. A lot. It's why he came up with the idea of making a contribution to the Children's Program. He asked his family to give whatever they could and proudly sent in a gift of $1,000 to help cover program fees and materials for other children. Reaching More Children In addition to his financial support for the Children's Program, Matthew is finding other ways to reach kids who might need help. He donated his beloved Beamer books to his school counselor so she could share the stories with more students. Beamer is the adorable lightbulb-boy mascot of the Children's Program whose face lights up in different colors to reveal his feelings. "Both of Beamer's parents are sick with addiction," Matthew relates, "and the color of Beamer's face represents his feelings. Sad is blue. Happy is yellow. Mad is red. Embarrassment is pink. Guilty is green." As part of the Children's Program, Matthew learned the importance of expressing his emotions. "If we keep all of our feelings inside and we don't let them out, we won't feel good," he explains. "We might get a queasy stomach, for example." When Matthew graduated from the Children's Program, he received his very own Beamer doll. Matthew loved it so much he gave a Beamer doll to his four year-old brother who's a little too young to understand all of the information about addiction that Matthew wants to share. But when the time comes, Matthew will be ready with plenty of kid-friendly explanations. "It helped me to think about addiction like a trap. That's how the counselors talked about it. Like a mama bear trying so hard to get away from the trap so she could go back to her cubs. Or a fish that gets stuck on a hook and tries to get away but he's just too stuck." And the greatest lesson of all for children? Understanding they didn't cause the addiction in their family. "Kids just really, really need to know it's not their fault. That's what helps the most." —Matthew D. Your Dollars Help Families Heal Thanks to the generous support of donors like Matthew, no child is ever turned away from the Children's Program due to inability to pay. Join Matthew in reaching out with care and support to children hurt by addiction. Your gift will let them know they're not alone. Donate online today. The Children's Program is offered at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation locations in California, Texas and Colorado.