When I was about 10 years old, I ended up spending a night camping in the woods with a group of recovering drug addicts.

A close family friend worked for the organization Day One and a group of girls were going camping. So, in what I guess was a futile attempt to get me out into nature (I am not and have never been an outdoorsy type), she invited young Victoria along.

I’ve thought about this trip a lot in the past few weeks as the town of New Gloucester argues over a planned Day One treatment facility, where kids like the ones I met would try to put their lives back together.

I grew up, and still live, about a mile away from the current residential house in Hollis. We never had an issue with those kids. When I was young, I didn’t really know the details of our family friend working at Day One, or what Day One was for, only that they were teenagers who needed some help, and that Day One was where they were getting it.

When you are 10, an 18-year-old is just about the coolest, most adult person there is, and I absolutely basked in their attention.

The girls were so nice to me – and if anyone who went on that trip is reading this, thanks for being so chill about the random nerdy kid with glasses who tagged along on your camping trip. I remember all the things most kids remember about camping – the s’mores, the laughing, our tent flooding in the middle of the night and having to move it uphill at 3 a.m..

I also remember a girl crying and the trip leader comforting her. I asked someone why she was crying, and they said, “It’s her 18th birthday, and she doesn’t want to be here.” At the time I thought she meant camping in the rain. But now I understand a little better.

It was her 18th birthday. She was away from home, away from her family, battling a disease few understand. And she was in the middle of the woods. And it was raining. I can’t imagine the things she must have gone through to have ended up in substance abuse treatment by her 18th birthday. An 18-year-old is legally an adult, but as any parent knows, in many ways still a child.

Maine has a problem with NIMBY-ism. Mainers like our personal space, and we do not like change. I’m not immune to this – the acre of land behind my house has changed hands and I am hoping to heck that it doesn’t become a boxy subdivision. So I can understand why people in New Gloucester are pushing back against a planned treatment house run by Day One. They’re scared. They are scared that the boys will be loud; that crime will come to their safe, rural neighborhood; that their houses will be broken into and their mailboxes knocked over. (To be fair, the house probably will be loud sometimes; substance treatment issues aside, it is going to be filled with a bunch of teenage boys.)

A lawyer representing locals has been quoted as saying: “My clients are not against such a societal need. However, they don’t want to be so close to it.”

That remark hit me like a tree branch to the head. If not you, then who?

If not your neighborhood, then where? These are boys. Teenagers. And teenagers need adults who look them in the eye and tell them that they are loved, they are wanted, and they are worth something.

What message are those residents of New Gloucester saying to those kids?

I would advise getting to know these children who are putting their lives back together. Play video games with them. Have a potluck. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Heck, go on a camping trip! They are less scary if you get to know them. (And think of all the yardwork they could help the neighbors with. When my brother was 16, he could mow lawns and stack wood like nobody’s business.)

In my bedroom, I have a little yellow box that I used to hide treasures I found as a kid. Seashells, cool rocks, things like that.

If something held a special memory for me, or a value that I couldn’t quite place or articulate, 10-year-old Victoria put it in the box. One thing I put in the box was the foil wrap of the chocolate bar that I used to make s’mores with on the camping trip.

Some people might consider it trash to be thrown away. I don’t.

For me, it’s a shiny physical memory of a night I spent in the woods, as a kid, surrounded by some other really cool kids.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial