Camp BraveHeart offers a break to grieving kids

Camp 2Ninety-five children, grieving the deaths of loved ones, had two days of playing and sharing at Camp BraveHeart this week.

Organized by Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, the day camp was hosted by YMCA Camp Fuller on Point Judith Pond in South Kingstown, RI.

Camp 1The weather was mostly perfect, with only a brief shower Thursday afternoon.

The kids, from 4 to 17, were divided into age groups and had access to a variety of activiies on land, water, and the stage.

Grief counselors and a registered nurse were always available, and the children were escorted by 40 volunteers including adults, and high school and college students. There were also pet therapy dogs and art therapy experts for the children. Camp counselors from the US and Europe supervised such activities as rock climbing, zip line and kayaking for the older children, and story tellers were there for everyone.

Camp 3I was lucky to be a part of Team Wave Riders, a great group of fifth- and sixth-graders who were kind, funny, energetic and generous. Mary Ellen Horsman, (pictured getting her T-shirt decorated) a nursing student, was our leader, and the other volunteers were high school students Jackie Soscia (pictured at top), Molly Pelosi, and Christian Shadraven. Chris first came to Camp BraveHeart as a camper, and now he’s a counselor.

“Surviving children often feel isolated and lonely in their grief and may not be sure of how to handle the conflicting emotions they are feeling,” said Deana Upchurch, head grief counselor at Home & Hospice, who founded the camp. “At Camp BraveHeart, we provide an appropriate emotional outlet to children by offering them grief support in an environment of fun recreational activities.  We help them to understand that what they’re experiencing, although painful, is perfectly normal.”

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