It was an emotional and uplifting week at the 25th annual Camp New Hope which took place this year at Delaware Hospice in Milford, DE as part of the organization’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.
Since 1993, the Meade family of Milford has volunteered for a total of 54 years. In 1992, Amanda Meade attended Camp New Hope, a program of Delaware Hospice when her grandmother passed. Amanda and the Meade family were truly grateful for the work and care that was provided through Camp New Hope. The following year, Amanda’s mother Kay volunteered at Camp while Amanda and her brother, Andrew, attended Camp New Hope when their great-grandmother suddenly passed. Having two children attend Camp within two years and seeing first-hand the impact the program had on her children, Kay had to volunteer. One summer as a volunteer turned into a hird summer, then 15 summers as a volunteer. This summer marked Kay’s 22nd year as a camp volunteer. The same happened with Amanda and Andrew who have volunteered at Camp for 17 and 15 years, respectively.
“I return each summer to volunteer because I want to help kick death in the butt for these children,” commented Kay. “I have seen first- hand the impact that Camp and the New Hope program has had on children and I wanted to be a part of that. The kids trust [the volunteers] and by the end of the week, you can see a significant weight has been lifted off of their shoulders. They know that there will be tough situations ahead but the kids are now equipped with the tools and knowledge that they are not alone. And that is the most important aspect of Camp.”
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.
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. 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.
Camp New Hope has impacted thousands of individual’s lives. Not only do the campers experience the benefits of Camp, but also the hundreds of volunteers, staff members, and guest presenters who have served at Camp over these past 25 years have been privileged to witness the transformation of the children and teens. Numerous volunteers return each summer, forgoing their vacation time to attend Camp. Many of the volunteers are even past campers who have returned and share their firsthand experiences.