When someone loses a loved one, it seems nothing is right with the world. The sorrow that follows can be debilitating for anyone, and grief for a child can be a confusing process. Whether it's the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling or a special friend, dealing with the loss is beyond the experience of most children. Their reaction is often overlooked in the activity surrounding the death.
To address the special needs of grieving children, the bereavement department of Niagara Hospice is offering its 13th Camp Hope for grieving children June 28-30 at the YMCA's Camp Kenan in Barker. Children ages 7 to 13 throughout Western New York who have lost a loved one through death - whether or not they ever received hospice care - are welcomed to enjoy this free camp.
Camp Hope is staffed by professional counselors, trained volunteers and a nurse who is on hand for the entire weekend. During the camp weekend, children learn to express their grief through many activities, such as creative movement therapy, musical expression, arts and crafts, pet visits, and a memorial bonfire. Outdoor recreation like rock wall climbing, making and eating S'mores around the campfire, swimming and nature walks are also enjoyed.
"At Camp Hope, children receive the opportunity to connect with their peers in a new way. They break a barrier that allows them to share their feelings to others who understand what they are feeling," said Camp Hope Director Linda Bazinet. "A child's response to death is commonly overshadowed by the feelings their loved ones are experiencing, which may leave them thinking they are alone. What a child needs is to understand that they are not alone in their pain and confusion, and that it is OK to grieve. This is what Camp Hope offers."
About six weeks following camp, the children and their caregivers will meet again with staff and volunteers for a Camp Hope reunion. Children will be given a camp yearbook to exchange signatures with their new friends.
For a free camp application, call the bereavement department at 716-280-0777 or click the "Our Services" tab at www.NiagaraHospice.org for printable forms. Applications must be received by Monday, June 17.
Applications are also available online for men and women age 21 and older who are interested in volunteering for the camp weekend - whether it's for a few hours or for the whole weekend. Training for camp volunteers is Saturday, June 1. Call 716-280-0777 for more information and to register.
Camp Hope is free and entirely funded by local service clubs, organizations, individuals and grants. Camp Hope is sponsored in part by the Middle Chamber Society, Niagara Falls Council of Beta Sigma Phi, Optimist International, Moose Lodge No. 584, NCCC Student Nurses Association, Starpoint Teacher's Association, and Wegmans supermarket on Military Road in Niagara Falls. To sponsor a camper, call the Niagara Hospice Alliance development office at 716-439-4417.