It was an emotional and uplifting week at the 24th annual Camp New Hope which took place this year at Redden State Forest in Georgetown, DE 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. Volunteering for the camp over the last 12 years, counselor Bill Bangeon states that the camp prepares the children with tools that they can use as they continue to cope with stressful and difficult situations.
“We try to teach them tools for grieving. We show them that it is normal to grieve and as they carry on, it is not disrespectful to their loved ones to have fun,” commented Bangeon. “The idea is for them to take those tools with them after camp to understand that grief is a normal condition, we survive and we can go on with our normal lives.”
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.
Camper Kanaja Kellam, 14-years-old, lost her father in February. She admits that Camp New Hope has not only been helpful for her grieving process but also has given her an opportunity to help others. “Camp New Hope has allowed me to express myself and help others,” said Kellam. “I have been able to talk with other and show them that when they are down they should write a letter or song to the person they have lost.”
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. Camper Hannah Broney, 14-years-old, joined the other campers as they placed ornaments they made on a memorial tree.
“My dad passed away in March. I mostly learned from camp that I do not have to get over it but learn to live with it,” said Broney. “It is easier when you can talk with someone that has been through the same thing, they understand.”
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.