It was an inspiring and emotional week at the 22nd annual Camp New Hope which took place at Killen’s Pond as part of Delaware Hospice’s New Hope community support group. The weeklong summer camp brought together children and teenagers, aged 6-17, that 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.
This year, Camp New Hope provided 44 children with an opportunity to connect with peers who had similar experiences in an attempt to help them share and understand their grief. 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 by funneling negative feelings into positive action.
“The Camp is about letting the kids know that they are not alone and have the support of others that have experienced similar circumstances,” commented Camp New Hope Coordinator Robin Murphy. “We give them the skills to deal with the grieving process and allow them to open themselves to the healing process.”
The first day of camp, children were divided into groups based on their age, which encouraged bonding and sharing with each other. Twenty-eight trained volunteers and counselors led the children through activities, games and sports. Campers enjoyed camp activities such as memorial art projects which included memory boxes, bracelets, tree ornaments and paintings.
These activities 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 theme of the camp this year encouraged campers to travel through he “Amazing Voyages,” which symbolized the four different stages of grief: acceptance, mountains of feelings, shores of remembrance and seas of change. Each voyage was experienced through symbolic activities such as climbing a rock wall to overcome the mountains of feelings or creating a memory box to conquer the shores of remembrance.
“It’s a really great way to relate with others that have gone through what you have gone through,” commented first year camper Jaime, who lost her mother and grandmother just a year apart from each other. “I really enjoyed getting to know new people and making memorials to give to our loved ones.”
The Camp New Hope Memorial Service was 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 Michelle Edwards explains that the progression of the children throughout the week and the experience of the closing ceremony demonstrates the growth and development of each individual.
“As a former camper myself I know what to expect from the program and what the kids are going through,” commented Michelle. “The campers open up a bit after they realize that there are other kids out there that share the same experiences. The kids are completely different leaving the camp than when they came here on Monday.”
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.
“The number one thing we want the kids to take away is that whatever they are feeling is okay and there are healthy ways to let those feelings out,” commented Murphy. “We hope that they make lasting friends that they can share with along their journey.”