Jeremy Renner Took a Week Off 'Knives Out' to Open a Camp for Kids

Tucked away in the wilderness of Lake Tahoe is Jeremy Renner’s inaugural camp for foster kids, Camp RennerVation. There, you'll find the Marvel star casually walking and riding a scooter around the campsite, generating fun for 100-plus campers, all children from disadvantaged backgrounds. He's still approached for autographs and asked what it was like to be in the Avengers (“It's like playing with your friends,” he tells one child). But as far as he’s concerned, he’s not the hero on the campgrounds—the kids are.

"They're the ones that know how to overcome a lot of adversity," Renner told Parade as we joined him on day two of Camp RennerVation. "They're the heroes in my mind, and I'm just here to bring them joy and bring them together, and I've got lots to learn from them."

Renner, who credits being the oldest of seven siblings for his understanding of children, has "always been a proponent" for kids. "I had access to them as soon as I became an Avenger," he noted. "So that became really, really interesting to me because it shifted the celebrity, which was sort of toxic in my life, to something that was really super positive because of the access to kids."

The Mayor of Kingstown star has been working with foster youth in the Reno, Nevada area for several years now, and in 2023, he announced his RennerVation Foundation, whose mission is to create a community where all children feel valued, supported and inspired to achieve their dreams.

While there is no archery at the five-day camp, there are a number of activities, including sports games, painting, pontoon boat rides and a nutrition interactive session presented by Silk, the official nutrition sponsor of Camp RennerVation. "I learn from [the kids] more than I teach them, I think," Renner said. "But I think inadvertently there's a lot of wonderful exchange. Planting seeds of hope."

Continue reading for Parade's exclusive interview with Renner about his goals for the camp and what is "probably the coolest thing" he's ever experienced in his life (hint: it has to do with his daughter, Ava).

<p>Alexandra Hurtado</p>

Alexandra Hurtado

What are some of the skills that kids are going to learn here at camp?

Most importantly, my image for this is creating community. You can't really teach that. You have to put them in community, be with them. There's certain disadvantages in foster youth and certain challenges. We wan't to wipe those all clean here. Want to give them continuity and consistency. To me, that's very important. The most important thing is F-U-N. We're gonna have a lot of fun here, right? A lot of sunshine, a lot of smiles, a lot of good times and with that, we'll breed community and friendships. There's so many activities in the rotation, from lake activities to sport activities. Then there’s educational stuff. There’s nutritional education. [We're] working with Silk. They're here today actually because they have smoothies for the kids. Stuff that I use all the time, me and my daughter. We got to work with Silk on a Super Bowl commercial, so they wanted to come and help us out here.

[The kids] need this. This is their birthright if you ask me, and I want to give them this. I want to give them every opportunity. To be able to do whatever they want. To dream as big as they want. That everything is possible. Just an example, these kids are rolling around with just Hefty bags with all their stuff in it in life. They don't think anything of it. We're gonna give them a little roller case with their name on it, and a little passport thing to be a proud traveler in their travels in life. Shifting the perspective. That's what really matters to me, is giving these kids the power of their perspective, and [the feeling that] that I'm on their side. I'll always have their back, and so will this foundation.

<p>Courtesy of Silk</p>

Courtesy of Silk

Is this a camp you wish you had had growing up? Or did you go to camp?

I remember going to different camps, but our family was really quite large [Renner is one of seven kids]. So mom would just send us to my cousin's house for the summer [laughs]. That was a camp. Our house has always been run like a camp. When you live in a household where you've got to have your name on your cup, right?

Related: Jeremy Renner Returns for Season 3 of Mayor of Kingstown—Get All the Details

I went to a camp when I was young, there was archery, horseback riding. Is there archery here?

[Laughs] Here's the thing. I'm not trying to pull out a weapon for these kids. I want to give them opportunities in life, not opportunities to get hurt [laughs]. Don't get me wrong, there are safe ways to do archery and stuff, but it would take a bit of time to train somebody who's never been trained in archery, and I'd rather spend time with them doing other things to have a real effect for them. Like swimming. There's a lot of kids that weren't really great at swimming, but we're moving the needle with them. In this freezing lake [laughs].

Your sister's here, your daughter...It's a family affair. Are they camp counselors? What are their roles?

My sister, specifically, she comes from the DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) world in L.A. County, and then my girlfriend Shana, who's on the board, does it here in Nevada. So my sister’s expertise really fills in a lot of gaps for me, so I can focus on the creative, the ideas, the fun. I'm the good-time guy and she can deal with all the programming and the proper ways to kind of go about access to our foster youth and disadvantaged youth in greater northern Nevada.

<p>Alexandra Hurtado</p>

Alexandra Hurtado

Related: Jeremy Renner Releases New Music Video Dedicated to Daughter Ava on First Anniversary of Near-Fatal Accident

It's exciting that Silk brought you and your daughter [together] for another project. She was in the Super Bowl commercial with you and now here. She must look at her dad and be like, "He's my hero."

I don't know. I think. Maybe. I think there was a sense of pride. I always know my daughter loves me, but when your daughter is proud of you, that's probably the coolest thing I've ever experienced in my life. It’s pretty amazing to have these shared experiences with that beautiful young lady.

<p>Courtesy of Silk</p>

Courtesy of Silk

This must also feel like summer camp for you, taking a break from projects like Knives Out.

Yeah. I had to leave a job in London, so I’m a bit jet-lagged, but this is my summer vacation, if you will, to come and do this with these kids man, so I'm really excited for it. By the way, it was part of my deal—it was a no-go for me to do this movie if they couldn't let me do this camp. And I said, "It's not gonna happen." So they allowed me to come and I'm so happy I'm here.

So you return next week to London?

Yeah, as soon as the camp's done, I gotta go back and film.

How do you define superhero?

Utter selflessness, I suppose. You can have anything you want in your life and you find out you don't really need or want anything when you start giving to others.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. You can help children participate in Camp RennerVation by donating here.

Next, Every Revealed Cast Member of Knives Out 3