Nassawadox, VA – “Grief is a process, not an event,” says Melanie Mason, Bereavement Coordinator for Riverside Shore Hospice. “And for children suffering from the loss of a loved one, it’s an especially difficult journey. Camp Fragile Hearts provides a respite from that sad environment and allows grief-stricken kids to just be kids in the company of others who are on the same journey.”
Camp Fragile Hearts supports children and their families who are coping with loss, whether from grave illnesses, death, divorce, foster placement, incarceration or deployment. The free camp is a one-day event that brings local kids together in a fun, safe environment where they can share their feelings with others but also have a day filled with fun activities such as music, a petting zoo, games and zip lining.
The day, which involves more than 20 volunteers and trained counselors, will be held on Saturday, October 1st in Jamesville at Camp Silver Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. This is the fourth annual camp which was started by Hospice and Palliative Care of the Eastern Shore and is being continued by Riverside Shore Hospice. The camp is funded in part by donations, most notably and recently from Buchanan Subaru in Pocomoke, MD, the Northampton Sheriff’s department and local Rotary Clubs.
“Camp activities allow kids to leave the hurt behind and to help them understand that they are not alone and others share feelings of loss and sadness too. It’s such an important community outreach effort, and our volunteers and staff benefit from the day nearly as much as do the children,” commented Mason. “All of the time, effort, energy and love that goes into this day pays big dividends in making a difference in the life of a child. Our volunteers’ generous hearts helping fragile hearts heal is really what it’s all about.”
Camp Fragile Hearts starts at 8:00 am with the arrival of approximately 40 children ranging in age from 7 to 17 who first have a nourishing breakfast and then break into small groups led by trained counselors. These sessions allow the kids to talk about their grief in a safe environment, free from judgment. “I have so enjoyed working with this group of special kids. I love helping them work through their feelings. You can see a real difference in their demeanor even after just a short time,” said Martha Johnson, one of the volunteer counselors. She continued, “The day is immensely gratifying for us, too.”
The campers also enjoy age-appropriate activities such as interacting with a petting zoo, arts and crafts, zip lining, and climbing on an Alpine Tower. A healthy lunch is included and is served by enthusiastic volunteers. More activities designed to allow the kids to work off excess energy and have fun with new friends follow lunch. Dinner includes a closing ceremony and an opportunity for the campers to literally and figuratively release their feelings of sadness and grief.
A widowed parent of children who attended the camp commented, “My kids really needed the break, and the camp helped them see that they were not alone in their struggles. Plus, it ended up being a fun day with a very moving end that helped us all heal.”
“Caring for others as we would care for those we love is Riverside’s mission, and Camp Fragile Hearts is an excellent example,” said Mason. “It’s not enough to just treat a patient; our Riverside Care Difference sets a higher bar that we also commit to providing our community with the best care possible in order to keep our friends and neighbors safe, help heal them, treat them kindly and respect their wishes,” continued Mason.
The camp is limited to 40 campers and spots need to be reserved. Camp applications can be obtained by calling 757-789-5000.