It was an emotional and uplifting week at the 26th annual Camp New Hope which took place this year at Killens Pond and 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 through 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 is a special place where children who have experienced the death of someone can come and learn that they are not the only ones who have lost someone,” said Jennifer Saienni, Delaware Hospice Public Relations Specialist. “This normalizes the loss for the child and provides much needed support. A time of bonding occurs right away between the staff and campers which creates a safe place for each child to share their story with children their own age.”
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.
Throughout the week the campers learn to process their loss through various activities such as making a memory box in honor of their loved ones and sharing mementos about their loved ones with their new friends. The times of grief processing is balanced with recreational activities such as playing on the playground or water games. These times help the campers realize that it is healthy to think about their loved ones, feel sad but also learn that it is alright to have fun again.
“The week of Camp New Hope opens up a space between the camper and their family to talk about their loved one and truly begin the process of healing together through their grief,” said Camp New Hope Volunteer, Christine Allen. “The first day they all were very quiet and shy. One camper almost seemed like he did not want to be at camp at all. Through out the week’s activities they began to bond with one another and natural support and compassion for one another started taking place. By the final day of camp they broke out of their shells and it was evident that they were getting something out of the activities they were participating in.”
The week of Camp New Hope culminates with a Camp Memorial Service that is put on by the campers. Each group comes up with a skit or song, or some way that they want to celebrate their loved ones and all family members are invited for this sacred time of tears and joy. The memorial service ends with the tree ceremony where each child places an ornament on the memorial tree and they and their families are invited back to Delaware Hospice to visit their tree anytime.
Camp New Hope counselors, many of them volunteers, know that their commitment to Camp New Hope is shaping the future of local children and their families. “What volunteering at Camp New Hope demonstrates is that it is truly better to give than to receive, and to be able to volunteer time and effort to a truly noble cause is one of the greatest things we can do to affect change in our societies,” said Terrence Weston, Camp New Hope Volunteer and Delaware Hospice Staff member. “Experiences like this heal universally. Not only do they heal those who are suffering the most, but they also have a way of healing those who are supporting them. I believe that people need to sacrifice for others in order to feel complete and this event has helped me to realize that.”
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 26 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.
“Many Camp New Hope volunteers come back year after year and truly become a family. Each summer when Camp New Hope rolls around, not only are the volunteers excited for camp and to meet all the new campers, but they relish the opportunity to see their volunteer family again,” said Robin Murphy, BS, CT, Camp New Hope Director. “Without the Delaware Hospice volunteer staff, and generous donations from the community, Camp New Hope would not be possible. I thank everyone who gave their time and talents to make Camp New Hope 2016 a wonderful experience for many grieving children.”
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