When we decided to take the camp in a new direction, we were traveling into somewhat uncharted territories. We had so many years working with Marmon Valley Farms and with equine therapy that trying something new was partly scary (would families even be interested? would we find the right partners?) and partly exciting (what new things can we bring to an already wonderful experience?).
We Couldn’t Do It Alone
We reached out to OhioHealth Hospice who had partnered with Schoedinger in the past for Camp Hope. They were eager to work with us and were a great support for suggestions on the length of the camp, programming and coordinating volunteer training. We also reached out to Heartland Hospice, who were instrumental in securing snacks and treats, as well as the supplies needed for the family activity of decorating shadow boxes as a memorial of their lost loved one. And finally, we contacted Nationwide Children’s Hospital Home Care and Hospice. They, too, were excited to be a part of Camp Hope.
This past year Camp Hope was held at the Heartland Conference and Retreat Center located in Marengo, Ohio. With sprawling acres of open spaces and amazing lodging accommodations, we anticipated an excellent experience for the families as well as the counselors/facilitators and volunteers. And, of course, the weather was perfect.
Bringing It All Together
Seven families were able to participate in camp this year. All were from varying backgrounds and situations, but it was remarkable to see the children immediately begin bonding with each other on the first day. We played games on Friday that helped everyone get to know each other and have fun. Dinner was supplied by Heartland Hospice’s Meridith Mayberry and everyone was stuffed by the time we went out to the campfire to sing songs and roast marshmallows. How wonderful it was that so many children and adults contributed songs to the singalong.
Saturday morning welcomed us with a hot breakfast to start our day. Then people went off for grief work by age group. It was so nice to be able to do these programs in the wonderful outdoors and there was plenty of space for each group to work separately. The morning ended with some free time before lunch. Some families went for walks on the many trails around camp, some stayed in the dorm and played games like table tennis or foosball. Some just enjoyed sitting out in the sun by the pond.
Friendships Made to Last
After lunch, there was a little more free time before the family activity began. Families gathered in the dorm at tables and were given supplies and instructions on how to design their shadow boxes. Once completed, each family had the opportunity to share their box and explain the significance of the decorations. Then this activity was followed by a few awards and a closing program. All families expressed how much they enjoyed camp and how nice it was to meet and spend time with other families like themselves. Several made friendships that will likely extend beyond camp.
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The Camp Hope Committee will be meeting soon to review this year’s camp and make suggestions for an improved camp for next year. Stay tuned for details. Meanwhile, if you know a family that you think would benefit from the healing experiences of Camp Hope, feel free to call 614-429-5703 for details.