When Doug Campbell moved to Southwest Florida from Memphis after the sale of a public company where he served as chief executive, little did he know he was about to dedicate a powerful new chapter in his life to children. Over the last 15 years, Campbell has been a persistent advocate for abused and neglected children in Collier County. He began as a guardian ad litem, protecting the interests of children in the court system—many of whom end up in the foster care system. It was there he discovered Friends of Foster Children of Southwest Florida (FFC), which provides these children with the social, educational and financial support not offered by the state.
Since 2008, Campbell has been FFC’s chairman of the board, and he remains a guardian ad litem, taking care to identify the unique needs of each child and do what he can to help. Through his Campbell Family Foundation, the Naples resident has also donated far in excess of $100,000 over the last few years to FFC, and has made other financial contributions to several charities.
“You try to get the best possible help for these kids in a system that is not given to great outcomes,” he says. One of the biggest issues the charity addresses is education. Foster children are often behind other students in school because of their home circumstances, so FFC provides professional tutors who follow the children as they move from foster home to foster home, until the tutor and teacher agree that the child is caught up and has a support system.
“It’s about helping kids achieve self-respect,” Campbell says. “Imagine what it’s like to be a kid ripped from your family, hauled away with nothing, and handed over to someone you don’t know and who knows nothing about you. There you sit with no support system, and you’ve been bounced around in school or haven’t been going to school. All these kids believe the reason they were taken away from their parents is their fault. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Through its Project Enrichment program, FFC also provides the children an opportunity to go to summer camp, play sports and participate in other activities, which Campbell says is “a big deal” and helps to promote a stable and safe environment where kids can be kids.
“The more you learn, the more opportunities you see to do something to improve a fairly ugly situation,” Campbell says. “You do what you can, and keep doing it, until you’ve accomplished something. I think you have to help families one at a time.”