Imagine you are a teenager, an impressionable fifteen year-old; you answer the front door to a policeman who tells you that your sister has been shot dead in the street. Imagine you are a shy, introverted six-year-old and your mom just died from ALS. Imagine you are ten, young, eager, expectant; you wake up one morning and your whole world implodes with the news that your dad has committed suicide.
Enter Camp Erin, a weekend-long bereavement camp for children and teens. The Camp is provided at no cost to families and is open to any child between the ages of 6-17 who has had an immediate family member or custodial caregiver die. Children and Youth throughout Ontario are referred and accepted from a broad spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds, which in turns supports diverse communities who may have difficulty accessing support in other ways. Campers receive a thorough intake to ensure that Camp Erin will be a safe and helpful experience for all.
The Camp Erin experience includes a Meet-the-Camper event, Camp Erin weekend, and a Camp Reunion. The Meet-the-Camper event occurs prior to camp and helps increase the campers’ comfort around leaving to go to camp, as well as helping to alleviate parents’ anxieties. The 2017 Camp weekend - June 2-4 - is focused on providing campers with the tools needed to help them in their grief, as well as with dealing with difficult life experiences. The Camp also enhances self-esteem and provides pure enjoyment, giving children and teens the opportunity to meet with other grieving kids in a fun and natural environment. Understanding that they are not the only ones to experience the death of someone close to them helps decrease the sense of isolation that many grieving children experience.
There are a number of key grief rituals that all Camp Erin sites include in the therapeutic portion of their programming. These include: creating a camp memory board compiled of pictures of the person who died in each camper's life; choosing a grief activity during grief rotation (sponge bombs, griefitti, spa, journal making, sand art), a process that offers campers the opportunity to express and process grief; Ask the Doctor session, where campers can ask anonymous questions around the worries or anxieties they are experiencing as a result of their loss; and the camp luminary ceremony in which campers light a candle and spend some time in the ritual of remembrance.
In tandem with the grief programming, campers are exposed to new activities and environmental experiences. For some, Camp Erin will be the first time they have left the city.
The primary goals of Camp Erin include:
For more information and a 2017 camp application please email [email protected]
Article written by Cece Scott.