Published Jul 14, 2021 at 11:58pm.
Story and photos by JAN OSBORN.
Camp Sunrise is a weekend-long summer camp for children and teens (ages 6-17) who have experienced the death of someone close to them. It is a traditional, fun, high-energy camp combined with grief education, peer bonding, and emotional support. Licensed counselors and trained facilitators lead children and teens through purposeful activities, which provide healthy ways to express feelings and help develop coping strategies for their journey toward hope and healing.
This is the 11th year ChristianWorks has provided a bereavement camp for kids, many of whom came from their program called GriefWorks.
73 campers and 60 volunteers attended Camp Sunrise last weekend. A memory board with photos of loved ones is shared by the kids for all to understand who they have lost.
Volunteers play games with the children that help them in processing their loss. A beachball with different words such as sad, angry, and hopeful is tossed in the air. Whatever word it lands on, the campers tell what the word means to them. It opens up great conversations that campers feel comfortable enough in this group to open up and talk about with others.
The GriefWorks program offers free support groups for children and their families which are led by volunteer facilitators like Camp Buddies, Wren and Shanon. Volunteers come from all walks of life – counselors, nurses, teachers, church members. All volunteer facilitators are fully trained by GriefWorks staff, will shadow facilitators, and be partnered with experienced facilitators when assigned to an age-specific group.
Counselors encouraged campers to write notes to themselves on how to handle grief. They pretended to write them to a friend and then “flew” them to themselves to read.
Allison Abbey, Camp Sunrise Clinical Director.
According to Allison Abbey, “This year we have one entire group of boys 11 to 14 in our green group, who have all lost their fathers. We’ve never had it before, where the losses in the group are all the same.”
Anyia adds the final touches to her memory box to honor her mother, Trisha.
Working on a memory box to honor their loved one takes time to reflect on past experiences.
“I didn’t really want to come to camp. My brother went to a church grief camp and said it wasn’t fun, just a lot of talking. But now I am looking forward to this because there’s a lot of fun stuff to do!”
Celso also goes by the name “IV” (not “Ivy”) in honor of carrying on the fourth generation of his family.
Photo courtesy of Camp Sunrise.
The moving Luminaries Ceremony takes place on the last night after a day of laughing and remembering. Each camper lights a candle in memory of their loved one then says goodbye as they watch the candles float silently away until they disappear from sight.
ChristianWorks believes that restoring hope after experiencing a death will allow them to have healthy future relationships. Affordable counseling is offered in addition to the grief support groups to make help available on their road to restoration.
For more information about ChristianWorks and the services they provide, go to ChristianWorks.