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Camp helps children deal with grief

Published On: Apr 15 2013 07:13:16 PM CDT
BRISTOL, Tenn. -

One of the more pleasant elements of childhood is the bond a boy or girl establishes with parents, grandparents and other loved ones.
     All too often, though, many children experience the death of one of their relatives – or perhaps someone else who impacted them profoundly. This can significantly impact children and create a need for a support system.
     Wellmont Hospice can help these children and their families with a free one-day camp designed to make the transition easier to navigate. Camp Caterpillar, an annual event, will be held again Saturday, April 27, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at Camp Placid, 224 Camp Placid Road.
     “This camp provides a tremendous opportunity for children and other family members to grow in understanding of this change in their lives and continue the healing process,” said Angie Browning, a Wellmont Hospice social worker who coordinates the camp. “It is an excellent way for children to prepare to move forward with their departed loved one in their hearts.”
     Camp Caterpillar is open to children from prekindergarten to 12th grade and family members. Sessions for children will touch on feelings associated with grief, methods to cope with death and building memories of deceased loved ones. Children will also benefit from interactive activities such as games, crafts, face painting and an inflatable obstacle course.
     The event will conclude with a memorial service and butterfly release.
     Adults will gain valuable insight at Camp Caterpillar by learning more about a child’s grief and ways they can help him or her cope. Adults are not immune from grief, either, and their sessions will help them gain fuller appreciation of what they might be experiencing.
     “Children look to adults as role models in the grieving process,” Browning said. “Through Camp Caterpillar, adults will learn more about how children grieve so adults can serve as a companion through this process.”
     During Camp Caterpillar, each child will be paired with a community volunteer who will serve as his or her buddy for the day. Participants include Wellmont Health System staff, church members and college students who receive additional training about connecting with children and helping them get the most from their day at the camp. This year, some children who were once campers are returning to serve as buddies.