Camp Hope was an incredible camp for 11 families this year. Although not as many families attended this year as last year, there were many more children. And all were able to experience not only the calm and peacefulness of being at camp, but the healing and grief work that was done as well.
Friday evening began with a welcome to all families followed by a camp-style cook out. While families were enjoying those grilled hot dogs and watermelon, camp songs were being sung and people were getting to know each other. A great start to a great weekend.
On Saturday, campers began their day in breakout sessions for the different age groups. The adults were in the arena working with the horses through some equine grief activities. The younger children were working with the drummers, making their own drums and experiencing the healing of music. The older children drew trees with each part of the tree representing different parts of their lives. The activities for each group was designed to help people work through their grief and realize that it is okay to have feelings about the loss and to express those feelings in a safe environment.
After these sessions, families had some time to relax before lunch. Some played with the kids, some sat under the trees and relaxed, some wrote in their journals, and some enjoyed fishing in the pond.
After lunch families had an opportunity to take part in a kite-making activity. Adults and children were guided in writing and drawing messages on their kites to their lost loved one, or something that was meaningful to them or their feelings.
Later in the afternoon on Saturday, families gathered in the arena to work with the horses again. This time, families were able to paint on their horses. This activity is one of the highlights of camp in that it is an opportunity for the whole family to work together on messages and artwork that express their grief and healing. Some painted messages to their loved one, some painted messages about how they were feeling, some painted images that were important to their loved one, and some just painted the horse with their loved one’s favorite color. At the end, the horses were paraded through the arena for all to see. Each family also had an opportunity to describe or explain the paintings on their horse.
After the horse painting activity, families had the opportunity for quiet time or to take part in a kick-ball game in the field prior to dinner.
After dinner on Saturday, campers were treated to a hay ride through the hills of Marmon Valley Farms. At the end of the ride, the driver stopped at one of the open fields where the horses normally roam. Families were able to witness the horses being released into the field and up into the hills. All of the horses were released, including the painted horses. It was a powerful experience for all to see.
At the end of the day on Saturday, campers enjoyed fry-bread by the campfire – another highlight of Camp Hope.
On Sunday, campers enjoyed breakfast on the hillside. It certainly felt like a true chuck wagon breakfast with a campfire and huge skillets cooking up scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, and toast with jelly. A great way to start the day.
Following breakfast, anyone interested was invited to attend an outdoor Sunday morning sermon. Later in the morning on Sunday, families were able to create memory boxes either depicting their experiences at camp or as a tribute to their lost loved one. Each family was encouraged to bring something meaningful about their lost loved one to camp with them for this activity.
After lunch on Sunday, families gathered to display their Memory boxes and tell a story about their creations. Camp directors, volunteers and facilitators also had the opportunity to say “thank you” to the families for sharing their lives and their stories. This was also an opportunity to round out the camp with some final words from the facilitators, volunteers, and families alike.
As a final treat, campers were allowed to take part in a guided horseback ride through the trails at Marmon Valley.
We would like to thank all of our volunteers including the camp facilitators and counselors that make this such a wonderful experience for all who attend:
- Mount Carmel Hospice and Palliative Care – Evergreen
- Mount Carmel Crime and Trauma Assistance Program
- Zusman Community Hospice
To learn more about Camp Hope, visit the Schoedinger website at www.schoedinger.com and click on the Grief and Healing tab, then select Camp Hope.
Julie is the Director of Community Relations at Schoedinger Funeral Service.