MARIA STEIN — New in 2016, to align with State of the Heart’s re-branding and expansion, Camp BEARable is now Camp Encourage.
“Camp will still include all the great services and activities you have come to know and love, just with a new name,” said a spokesperson.
The nonprofit agency’s annual Camp Encourage will be held July 15-17 at the Spiritual Center at Maria Stein. The weekend camp is free and is open to any youth, ages 6 to 15, who is experiencing grief after the loss of a loved one. There need be no association with hospice care. This year marks the 16th year for the camp, and more than 650 youth have attended over the years. Ashlee Carder, a certified music therapist and bereavement specialist for State of the Heart will once again be the camp director.
An important part of the camp experience is the volunteers who serve as “specially trained buddies” for the campers. This year, Carder said they would like for each volunteer to have only one camper that they interact with. Those volunteering must be 18 years or older and must pass a state and federal background check. State of the Heart pays for the background check.
“The volunteer should enjoy being outside as many activities are outside; they should be a good listener and relate to children in that age bracket of 6to 15,” she said.
A volunteer can specify which age group they prefer to work with.
“It would be good also if the volunteer has some personal experience with loss as it helps them relate to their buddy,” she added.
State of the Heart Care has offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland. Children from the entire service area are welcome to attend the weekend camp. The camp provides a “safe” environment where the youth are with peers and trusted adults. For many of those attending, it is the first time they have felt comfortable talking about their feelings. Hospice officials nationwide who conduct such camps say they believe attending camp and expressing feelings about the loss of a loved one can prevent serious problems later on in life.
An orientation for the adult volunteers will be held on July 15 from 1 to 5:30 p.m. at the Spiritual Center.
“This will give the volunteers an idea what to expect at camp and give them an overview of activities,” Carder said. “There will be many fun activities, including caricature artist drawings, face painting, music and car club rides including a ride in an old fashioned fire truck.”
The serious side of camp will include introductions to a variety of coping skills. Children will be able to express their grief and feelings through music, art, physical activities and social interactions with their peers and adult buddies. In addition, there will be a panel discussion allowing the campers to ask any question of the three panelists: A physician, a funeral director and a minister.
Carder said she noted last year that one major positive aspect of camp is that it “provides the campers with tools to deal with their grief and loss when they go home. If they are having a bad day, they can recall something they learned at camp which will help them. This is a very positive outcome for the youth.”
She emphasized that those attending camp need not have any hospice experience. At previous camps, the majority of campers have no association with hospice care. Many have lost siblings or parents in accidents or to natural causes; some have lost friends or loved ones to suicide, and in some cases they have had a loss due to homicide.
Registration is required in order to attend and can be done by going to the State of the Heart web site to the Camp Encourage tab under “services.” There, the application can be downloaded. Email as an attachment, or print off a copy and mail it in or drop it off at one of the offices. An application for volunteers is also available and can be completed the same way.
For questions about camp, call Carder at 1-800-417-7535 or email her at [email protected]
“If you or your club or civic organization would like to make a contribution to help with expenses, please contact Erica Wentworth, business development specialist at 937-548-2999 or at [email protected],” said the spokesperson.