Summer is practically synonymous with “camp” for a lot of kids. Most summer camps give children the chance to explore, learn and play outdoors, exempt from the worries of the school year. That was certainly the case for the 72 campers (and 82 volunteers) at Camp Erin Pittsburgh, held June 7 – 9 at Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer, just 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. But at this particular camp, all the kids had one thing in common: each had lost a loved one during their young life.
Camp Erin Pittsburgh is a three-day, community-sponsored bereavement camp for children ages 6-17 that offers a traditional camping experience in addition to grief education and emotional support. The camp is a partnership between Good Samaritan Hospice, The Eluna Network and Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer – and thanks to the generosity of community members and organizations, is free for all campers. This year, the camp had 42 new campers (30 returning), 43 new volunteers (39 returning) and five staff members.
Activities on the itinerary for the weekend included: archery, swimming, arts and crafts, campfires, sports, journaling, music, zip lining, ropes course, sand bottles, drum therapy, art and pet therapy, luminary and more. To tie each of the activities together, the camp theme: “The Puzzle of Grief,” which explored what it means to work through the emotions of losing a loved one, was featured.
Although campers enjoyed each of the activities, one experience in particular allowed everyone to be involved in a unique way. Rachel Whitcomb, a singer-songwriter and certified music therapist from Pittsburgh, visited to help the campers compose an original song. At the end of the weekend, campers and their volunteer cabin buddies performed for the families in a closing ceremony.
Thanks to the kindness and dedication of volunteers, campers mentioned that the weekend was one of the most memorable. Volunteers served in a host of different ways, as cabin big buddies, clinical point people, grief activity facilitators, welcome/registration, logistics, pet therapy, photographers and registered nurses.
Enjoy photos of the weekend below (click to enlarge), and feel free to leave a comment! For more information, or if you are interested in volunteering next season or know someone who might want to be a camper, please visit www.camperinpittsburgh.org. We release the new camper and volunteer applications around the New Year, and we are always looking for new volunteers and first-time campers!
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