It was an emotional and uplifting week at the 23rd annual Camp New Hope which took place at Killens Pond State Park as part of Delaware Hospice’s New Hope community support group. The weeklong summer camp brings together children and teenagers, aged 6-17, that are coping with the death of a close family member. It provides 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 provides children an opportunity to connect with peers who have had similar experiences in an attempt to help them share and understand their grief. The Children learn to cope with what they are going through by means of discussion, various projects and interaction with counselors. They develop appropriate coping skills and learn to grieve in a positive way by funneling negative feelings into positive action.
“It is an opportunity for the kids to see that they are not alone,” commented Robin Murphy, Camp New Hope Coordinator. “They receive support from peers and can share their experience while not being judged. Camp New Hope reminds them that it is okay to have fun again.”
During 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 enjoy activities such as memorial art projects which include memory boxes, bracelets, tree ornaments and paintings. These activities help the kids 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.
Eleven-year-old camper Caitlyn Townsend lost her her grandfather recently. Camp New Hope has allowed the young girl to experience her feelings and share them in a positive way.
“When I lost Poppy I was sad because he has the same birthday as me and I love him,” commented Caitlyn. “[The counselors] helped me by controlling my feelings and having fun activities. I am happy because I have new friends here”
The Camp New Hope Memorial Service was held on the final day of camp. During this service, each camper has the opportunity to make special presentations to honor their loved ones in front of family members and their newly-made friends. Volunteer Ariel Mutter, a former camper herself, explains that the progression of the children throughout the week and the experience of the closing ceremony shows the growth and development of each individual.
“In 2005 when I came to the camp at fifteen years old I was very hesitant but the camp made my loss easier to talk about,” commented Ariel. “The camp gives these kids the tools to build the bridge to get through the grief process.”
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.