In the spring of 1993, HPH Hospice hosted its first children’s grief camp. Camp REACH OUT –which stands for Remembering Everything About Coping, Hope, Openness, Understanding and Trust – is an annual weekend camp for children living in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties, ages 5 to 17, who experienced the death of a loved one. Allowing children to share their feelings of loss with others, camp is offered to not only hospice families but to any child who has lost a loved one. Over three days, children engage in experiences that combine healing with fun, letting children know that life still has a lot to offer.
Throughout the camp weekend at the Lakewood Retreat in Brooksville, Florida, trained HPH Hospice bereavement counselors and staff are present along with full-time registered nurses, and dedicated community volunteers. Anyone that volunteers at the camp comes away from the weekend with an immense sense of accomplishment from the supportive healing provided to the campers.
Campers participate in traditional camp activities such as swimming, arts and crafts and campfires. Additionally, there are specific exercises built into the weekend that help the campers cope with grief, re-build trust and self-awareness. For instance, lakeside on Saturday evening, there is a moving memorial service designed to provide healing and closure opportunities for the campers.
Although on the surface the camping challenges may seem recreational, each one has a therapeutic component that helps kids develop coping skills to manage their grief. In addition, peer-to-peer interaction with other campers of the same age who experienced a loss teaches children they are not alone in their sorrow.
Registration includes completing an application and participating in an interview with an HPH Hospice bereavement counselor. Transportation to the camp is provided and leaves from several different HPH Hospice locations. Campers are reunited with their families for the closing ceremony on Sunday and return home together.
Children are accepted to participate in camp based on appropriateness and availability. Following the interview, families will be notified as to each camper’s status. Space is limited and fills on a first-come, first-serve basis.
To learn more about Camp REACH OUT, the HPH Hospice Center for Grieving Children and the grief support provided by HPH Hospice to residents in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties and other services, please contact the HPH Hospice Bereavement Department toll-free at 1.855.465.8238 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.