The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

May 13, 2013

Camp Hope: Day of fun for bereaved kids

Anna Holland, 9, a third-grader at Julian Newman Elementary School in Athens is excited about the upcoming Camp Hope, a free, one-day bereavement camp for children and teens ages 5 to 15.

This year’s camp, sponsored by Hospice of Limestone County, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, at Camp Helen Baptist Campgrounds in the Capshaw community.

Camp Hope gives Hospice an opportunity to work with children who are trying to cope with feelings of grief and loss resulting from the death of a loved one.

“I went last year,” said Anna, the daughter of Robin and Dee Holland. She attended the camp after losing her “PawPaw,” Joe Holland, to cancer. Her brother Matthew, 15, also attended.

Anna, Matthew and Paw Paw enjoyed fishing and other activities together.

“He was funny,” Anna said of her granddad.

Camp Hope helped Anna deal with her loss. She remembers swimming, but her favorite activitiies were fishing and volleyball, she said. She also remembers crafts and making a memory box.

“I wanted to go back this year because of how much fun I had last year,” Anna said. “You can do awesome, fun things. You have lots of fun. At the end, you put a note inside of a balloon and let it go.”

Her kids’ turn

Robin Holland, a counselor at Julian Newman and Anna’s mom, said Camp Hope has always been available to children in Limestone County, but last year was the first time her own children needed it.

“To me, it shows the kids that even though you have this sad, bad thing that happens, it’s still okay to have fun,” she said. “It helps children get past the guilt.”

My buddy

Campers are paired with older buddies with whom they can spend time at camp. Anna’s buddy last year was her friend, Paige Martin. Anna is already looking forward to meeting this year’s camp buddy.

Clements High School senior Breanna Browning, 18, could be Anna’s buddy this year. She is volunteering at the camp for the third time.

“I went one year as a camper,” Browning said. When she was only 8, Breanna, the daughter of Jenny and Tim Browning, lost her “Nana,” Ruth Williams, to cancer She was Ruth’s first grandchild, and the two had an instant connection.

“I remember tea parties and dressing up with Nana,” Breanna said, adding that her Nana was “the best.”

Breanna can remember the void of not having her grandmother with her anymore and the different emotions that go along with losing a loved one.

The same month, Breanna, Emma and their sister, Makayla, also lost a grandfather on their father’s side.

Jenny, Breanna’s mom, said she tried to keep things as normal as possible. She said the girls had their ups and downs. The hardest part was going back to Nana’s house.

The Good Grief Club, a part of Hospice of Limestone County, visited Breanna and Emma at their school to offer counseling. The Brownings were told about Camp Hope.

“They loved it,” Jenny said. “They wanted to go back every year.” 

When Brenna turned 16, she talked with her mom about volunteering.

“Camp Hope takes your mind off things,” Breanna said. “If campers want to talk about stuff, they have the opportunity to.”

Breanna’s favorite aspects of camp  were  the therapy dogs and the balloon release and celebration at the end.

Camp Hope offers a number of activities for campers, including swimming, fishing, volleyball, a scavenger hunt, parachute play, arts and crafts, and a water slide.

This year, Breanna looks forward to meeting her camper.

“I’m excited,” she said.

Jenny takes photos of the activities at Camp Hope. She has been taking pictures for three years and looks forward to it each year when camp rolls around.

“We are really excited about our upcoming Camp Hope 2013,” said Camp Coordinator Dana Pressnell, “We have lots of fun activities planned for the children.”

Deana Hollaway, Jonathan Young and Robye Andrews will be conducting  Camp Hope Teen for ages 12 to 15, she said.

Campers are at Camp Hope because they are sad and because no one  likes to deal with death, Pressnell said. Most campers and volunteers are even hesitant about attending, she said. However, organizers try to make Camp Hope a positive day packed full of fun and excitement.

“We still have spaces left, and we’d love to have more people sign up,” Pressnell said. “It is always an adventurous, fun-filled day at Camp Hope.”

Camp Hope is available to any child dealing with death or some other loss, such as incarceration and divorce. It is open to anyone whether their loss was this year or a few years ago, regardless of whether the camper has had a relative in Hospice programs.

Those interested in attending Camp Hope, should register online at www.athenslimestonehospice.org, ask a school counselor for a registration form, or sign up at the Hospice Office, located at 405 S. Marion St. in Athens.

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