Editorial by Niagara Hospice
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 16th Camp Hope for grieving children June 24-26 at the YMCA's Camp Kenan in Barker.
Children ages 7 to 13 throughout Western New York who have had a significant life change or lost a loved one through death - whether or not they ever received hospice care - are invited to enjoy this free and fun camping weekend.
"It's often difficult for children to speak about the losses and deaths they have experienced," Camp Hope coordinator Leann McConchie said. "They find that most of the other children they socialize with have never experienced such a loss. Camp Hope provides these children with a unique opportunity to meet and talk with other children who are grieving, and also provides them with the coping tools they need to begin healing, and to have a foundation from which to understand and cope with future losses."
At Camp Hope, children enjoy activities such as arts and crafts, music, swimming, making s'mores around a bonfire, a dance party and more.
McConchie said that, during most activities, children talk together about their losses, share thoughts and feelings with other campers, trained volunteers and professional counselors. They come to recognize that 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.
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.
Applications must be received by Monday, June 13.
Applications are also 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 generous 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.