If there is one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I’m all about fall – the foliage, hiking trips, being wrapped in a blanket watching the stars at night, sipping hot cocoa (no pumpkin spice, thank you very much!), and just gene
rally enjoying the cooler weather. If I could live in a place where it was fall all year round, I would be beyond happy!
This past Sunday I got to spend what felt like the first day of fall catching up with some of my favorite people, my fellow volunteers at Camp Erin. Let me start by saying, these people are absolutely amazing and I don’t even feel right putting myself in the same category with them. I have never met a group of people who are so dedicated, loving, and welcoming! I’d try to tell you more about them all but, A) there are not enough words to explain how incredible they are, and B) my writing would in no way do them justice. Just trust me when I say, you’d be hard pressed to find a better group of people anywhere!
So what is Camp Erin? Glad you asked! Camp Erin is a free weekend overnight camp for children ages 6-17 who have experienced the death of someone close to them in their lifetime. The weekend is filled with typical camp activities – swimming, games, arts/crafts, tae-kwon do – as well as grief education and emotional support provide by trained professionals and volunteers.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I look forward to camp each year. Whenever I tell people I’m going to spend a weekend at a grief camp, they always have the same reaction – that sounds depressing; isn’t that really sad? No!! Sure, there are moments of sadness, and obviously the circumstances that led each of these children to camp are not happy ones, but these have been some of my favorite summer weekends over the past 3 years. As I mentioned above, I’ve been blessed to meet some incredible people, both the adults and the campers, and always leave feeling hopeful and in awe of how resilient these kids truly are.
One of my favorite things about camp is watching the kids form these incredible bonds with one another. It’s truly an amazing thing to see – a cabin full of kids, who up until moments ago were complete strangers, become near best friends in a matter of minutes. It’s moments like those that I love to capture.
Admittedly, camp this year was not without its struggles for me personally. In late November, one of my childhood best friends passed away after a hard fought battle with cancer. Then, a little over a month later, my other childhood best friend died by suicide. To say I was (and still am) heartbroken would be an understatement. Losing those two people shattered my heart into a thousand
pieces. I’m still trying to put those pieces back together, knowing things will never be the same. There were moments at camp where I had to step away. Watching those children, remembering what it was like with my friends when I was their age, made me miss my friends that much more. And while I experienced those moments of sadness and grief, I also know that being at camp helped. One of the things they teach the kids is that none of them are alone in their grief. There’s always someone willing to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve never been good at openly expressing my thoughts and feelings so this is always a struggle for me. But I am incredibly thankful to that person at camp who listened, even if I couldn’t say much, and took the time to talk with me.
If you’re interested in learning more about Camp Erin, you can visit http://www.camperinboston.org.