Camp Hope, Niagara Hospice's free bereavement camp, helps children cope with grief
Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for children. Children grieve differently than adults. To address the special needs of grieving children, the bereavement department of Niagara Hospice is offering its 15th Camp Hope for grieving children June 26-28 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 invited to enjoy this free camping weekend.
"First and foremost, families and guardians of grieving children need to know that Camp Hope is fun," Camp Hope Director Lori Pusateri said. "At Camp Hope, children enjoy activities such as arts and crafts, music, swimming, s'mores around a bonfire, a dance party and so much more."
She said that, during most activities, children talk together about their losses, share thoughts and feelings with other campers, trained volunteers and professional counselors, and come to recognize grief is a natural response to losing a loved one. Together, campers learn positive ways to cope with loss, they learn to help each other, and they learn they are not alone.
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 the many provided activities and a memorial bonfire.
"By connecting with peers, kids are able to break a barrier that allows them to share their feelings with other kids experiencing the same feelings," Pusateri said. "What a child needs is to understand that they are not alone in their pain and confusion, and that it's OK to grieve in their own way and in their own time. This is what Camp Hope offers."
About six weeks following camp, the children and their guardians 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, contact the Niagara Hospice bereavement department at [email protected], call 716-280-0777 or visit the services tab at www.NiagaraHospice.org for printable forms. Applications must be received by Monday, June 15. Applications also are available online for men and women 18 and older who are interested in volunteering for the camp weekend, whether it's for a few hours or for the whole weekend. Call 716-280-0777 for more information and to apply.
Camp Hope is free to campers and relies on the donations of local service clubs, organizations, individuals and grants. To make a donation or to sponsor a camper, call the Niagara Hospice development office at 716-280-0780.