Summer Camp Helps Children Deal with Loss
Now accepting applications, Experience Camp welcomes children who have lost immediate family members.
In 2017, 400,000 people nationwide under the age of 25 suffered the death of someone in their immediate family, according to the National Mental Health Association. The Highmark Caring Place, which provides free support to grieving children, notes that the death of a loved one is devastating to a child, who often needs a range of support.
Experience Camp is a week-long, sleep-away camp designed for children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. Camp Equinunk and Camp Blue Ridge in Equinunk, Wayne County, are now accepting applications for this year’s program, which runs from Aug. 12 to 17. Boys in grades 4 to 11 and girls in grades 4 to 10 are eligible. The Pennsylvania camps are accepting 100 applicants for this summer.
What started 10 years ago as an all-boys camp for grieving children with only 27 attendees has grown to accept more than 800 campers in five camp locations across the country. Staffed with volunteers, social workers, guidance counselors and others, the camps have a ratio of two campers to every staff member.
The goal of the week is to create a “safe environment where kids can explore their grief, break the isolation they may feel with their non-camp peers and have a whole lot of fun,” says the website. Children who have lost a loved one are at a greater risk of depression, isolation and behavior problems — Experience Camps are hoping to combat that through the traditions of a regular summer camp and the added activities that teach them how to manage their grief.
According to Experience Camp website, 80 percent of eligible campers return and about 35 percent go on to become camp volunteers.
Entirely funded by grants, donors and fundraising events, the camp is free for those who qualify.
“When a primary caregiver or earner dies, or when a child has endured a long illness, a family has plenty of things to worry about. Paying for camp shouldn’t be one of them,” says the 2018 Impact Report for Experience Camp.