Fifty campers aged 6-17 and 30 volunteers just returned from three days at Camp Erin in Mount Potosi. Camp Erin is a grief camp founded by Major League Baseball Player Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen. Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas partnered with the Moyer Foundation to allow fifty grieving children from the Las Vegas area to gather together in a safe and fun environment to not only work on their grief but to also have a fantastic camp experience at no cost to the camper.
The campers created a memory board with photos of and messages to their family members who have died. The campers learned six keys to healing: GRIEF, COPE, REMEMBER, SUPPORT, LOVE, and HOPE and created a totem pole of healing using these six keys. The campers were encouraged to feel their feelings and to express them in productive ways. They wrote confidential letters to their deceased loved ones sending them a message of good-bye, I miss you, I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me or I forgive you. Later in the evening they burnt their letters and watched the smoke take the message to their loved one. This was a very emotional but healing ritual.
The campers created skits with their cabin mates around the theme PARTNERS. They learned that everything is easier with a partner, especially grieving! It helps to talk to someone about your feelings.
The campers decorated luminaries and processed into a labyrinth. The labyrinth symbolizes their grief journey. Once inside the labyrinth they released a feather that represented their feelings of guilt, anger, shame, etc. and then lit up the night with their luminaries in a beautiful display of honor to their deceased loved one. Once again, it was an emotional but healing ritual.
In between these grief activities, the campers climbed a rock wall, played laser tag, learned archery, created projects in arts and crafts, sang songs and ate s’mores.
Fifty campers who were quiet, scared and broken showed up to camp on Friday morning. By Sunday afternoon the campers had become outgoing, confident and filled with hope by the time they got on the bus to return to their families.
Without a doubt…Camp Erin 2014 made a difference in the lives of these grieving campers !! I am grateful for the privilege of co-directing camp this year and being part of an awesome team!