For kids who have lost a loved one, the support and friendship of peers who understand what they are going through can have a uniquely powerful and positive impact on their ability to heal and move forward. Camp Courage, JourneyCare’s free summer bereavement camp happening July 15-19, provides kids ages 6 to 13 this opportunity — to meet other children in the Chicago area who are also grieving the death of someone close, while learning coping skills and also enjoying traditional summer camp activities.
“Camp Courage gives campers a place to share their feelings with other kids who will listen and understand,” says Lauren Wozniak, JourneyCare Children’s Grief Coordinator and Bereavement Counselor. “Often, kids process their grief through play, so Camp Courage provides fun activities for campers, offering the chance for them to bond and process loss with each other.”
Entirely supported by charitable donations and free to participants, Camp Courage helps campers deal with their loss while they enjoy pet therapy, art, music and games with their new friends. It takes place at YMCA Camp Duncan, providing a safe space for the campers to swim, rock climb and enjoy nature.
Sharing Memories Together
Kids at Camp Courage share memories about their loved ones with each other. Led by professional counselors and trained volunteers from JourneyCare, the week-long camp incorporates reflection and honors those who died through two special memorial services. Campers learn that they are not alone in their grief and whatever they are feeling is okay.
Within small groups, music therapy and art therapy also help campers honor and process their loss. Drum circles, mask-making and memory boxes are just a few of the activities children can engage in at Camp Courage to promote healthy healing and expression.
Kids are welcome to attend Camp Courage for more than one summer. For returning campers, there are new activities this year, such as a “Grief Thunderstorm,” led by music therapists. Kids get the chance to draw their grief as a thunderstorm (rain = sadness, thunder = anger, sunshine = happy) and then correlate the pieces of the storm into music by the music therapists (thunder = drums, slap sticks = lightning). This allows them to create and share a visual and auditory representation of their grief.
Also new are writing activities by age group, helping campers learn how to use writing and words as a form of self-expression.
Camp Courage also encourages campers to communicate and share their feelings with their family members. On the last day of Camp Courage, the campers’ families are invited to participate. Activities on this day include “Wishing Well Notes,” a Remembrance Service, and a “Hear Us Roar Camper Showcase” — along with a BBQ, DJ, games, visits with miniature therapy horses, face painting and fun with water balloons.
This summer’s Camp Courage will be July 15-19 at YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside, Illinois. Learn more and register for Camp Courage. If you know a child who can benefit from attending Camp Courage, please share this article with them!
More information about free bereavement programs for children and teens can be found on the JourneyCare website.