It was an inspiring and emotional week at the 21st annual Camp New Hope which took place at Killens Pond as part of Delaware Hospice’s New Hope community support group. The weeklong summer camp brought together children and teenagers, aged 6-17, who are coping with the death of a close family member. It provided them with a sense of healing through the process of sharing their grief with peers in a supportive environment. The camp is part of Delaware Hospice’s year-round, nationally-recognized New Hope program to help children deal with loss.
Camp New Hope provided these children an opportunity to get together with peers who have had similar experiences so that the kids feel safer to express themselves. The Children learned to cope with what they are going through by means of discussion, various projects, and interaction with counselors. They developed appropriate coping skills and learned to grieve in a positive way and to funnel negative feelings into positive action.
Campers learned that their feelings are normal, not to feel guilty for their emotions, what to do with their anger and that talking is critical for the healing process.
“We really try to express to them that what they are feeling is normal and encourage them to share their stories,” commented Beverly Crowley, Public Relations Specialist and Camp Counselor at Camp New Hope. “Here they feel safe to cry and even to laugh. Sometimes they do not have that chance at home.”
The first day of camp, children are divided into groups based on their age, which encourages bonding and sharing with each other. Trained volunteers and counselors lead the children through activities, games and sports. Campers enjoyed camp activities such as memorial art projects which included memory boxes, bracelets, tree ornaments and painting as well as fun activities such as water games, a petting zoo, a hay ride, and sports.
It is these activities that help the kids to reach out to the counselors and their peers for guidance and understanding. The progression and understanding of their grief moves at an astonishing pace as the campers become comfortable.
“The first day the kids really do not open up much, they are still getting used to the camp and each other,” stated Beverly Crowley. “But even as quickly as the second day they really start to trust the counselors as they see other children going through the same things.”
The Camp New Hope Memorial Service is held on the final day of camp. During this service, each camper had the opportunity to make special presentations to honor their loved ones in front of family members and their newly-made friends.
Volunteer Kristin Maynard explains that the progression of the children throughout the week and the experience of the closing ceremony demonstrate the growth and development of each individual.
“The memorial service is my favorite part of the week,” commented Kristin. “The children at the camp plant a tree in memory of their loved ones and have the chance to decorate it with hand-made ornaments that they created to honor the family member they lost.”
From the camp, children took away the skills to construct a strong foundation upon which they can build as they go through their life experiences. They will be better equipped to cope with other loses throughout their life.
The success of Camp New Hope is largely due to the volunteer efforts of many individuals in the community and donations made to Delaware Hospice. For more information about Camp New Hope call 1-800-831-9800 or visit http://www.delawarehospice.org/.