Run-D.M.C. member and Hip Hop pioneer Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels first found out that he was adopted in his mid-thirties. The experience led him to later co-found Camp Felix, an upstate New York camp that helps form bonds among young foster children. D.M.C. recalled the moment in which he first found out he was adopted.
“I was hurt, confused…it felt totally unreal,” he told NY Daily News. “At the time it meant that they are not my mom and pop.” The Felix Organization donates $500 for each camper. Actor Mark Wahlberg also supported the camp, giving $100,000.
Last week, 171 foster children attended the camp and a few hundred more have had the opportunity to attend and share their experiences. In addition to sharing stories about their lives, the young campers are able to experience a close-knit unit that they may not have had before. “We are a family,” D.M.C. said.
Most of the foster kids at the upstate camp weren’t even alive when its co-founder rose to fame as a rap pioneer. They just know the Queens native as the guy who creates a safe place for them during the summer to talk about the difficulties they face in the child welfare system.
Hundreds of kids ages 8 to 14 have visited the camp, swapping stories of fear, abandonment and their struggles with identity. They form bonds that organizers hope will last a lifetime. “These kids say, ‘I am just a foster kid. I have nothing going for me other than just being miserable,'” said McDaniels. “I tell them, ‘You are wrong. Your situation doesn’t define who you are.'”
McDaniels also won an Emmy for his 2004 documentary “DMC: My Adoption Journey,” which chronicled his emotional search through court records and other obstacles to finally meet his birth mother. Two years later, McDaniels met “Sopranos” casting director Sheila Jaffee, who learned when she was 11 that she also was adopted. The two of them formed the Felix Organization, targeting kids in foster care. The nonprofit shells out $500 per camper each summer.