Candles & Campers: Helping Children Cope with Grief
Last year, Fairview Foundation asked the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation to fund 30 sponsorships through their Youth Grief Services Program for Camp Erin – a safe place where kids ages 6-17 come to grieve the loss of a loved one or friend.
Some have lost parents, some have lost siblings and some have lost close friends. At Camp Erin they find professional grief counselors to help them process their emotions, give them the support they need and create opportunities to connect with peers who understand how it feels to experience profound loss. Campers create supportive relationships with one another while learning important tools for coping with their grief, anger and loss in healthy and safe ways.
There are 48 Camp Erins held throughout the United States and Canada, serving 2,800 children annually. Last year, Camp Erin Twin Cities had five goals. They exceeded three of their goals and achieved the other two.
- They provided meaningful activities, education and tools to help campers express and cope with grief tied to the loss of a loved one, such as The Memory Board, a luminary ceremony and small group sharing circles. Camp Erin staff knows that children heal through play — so canoeing, swimming, arts and crafts, and games are also planned activities.
- They set out to serve 65 campers; in the end, they had served 76.
- They wanted 10 new campers to experience Camp Erin; instead, 22 had the chance to attend.
- They served 30 parents in their half-day parent camp; and
- They recruited 48 volunteers to help with the program; three more than they had planned.
These are impressive outcomes expressed in numbers. But, there’s even more.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair follow the stress that results from the loss of a loved one and many children will exhibit true depression. Camp Erin provides an opportunity to express and process painful feelings in a safe and supportive environment. It’s also a place where campers can heal because they learn they are not alone.
“Camp Erin helped me talk about my feelings to other people who are going through the same thing.” – Boy, age 14
“It was nice to be with people who understand how I felt. Also, it was nice to get away for the weekend and do fun activities. I felt less lonely and more understood. I also made a lot of friends.” — Girl, age 17
“It made me feel better because it let me tell some people what happened. It helped me calm down and helped myself feel better.” – Girl, age 6
“Grief can make you stronger.” – Boy, age 9