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Hospice's Camp Braveheart needs volunteers

POSTED: May 18, 2009 11:29 p.m.
For The Times/

Volunteers and Camp Braveheart participants enjoy activities at a previous session of the five-day camp that is sponsored by Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center. More volunteers are needed to assist in camp sessions that start next month.

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As an adult, dealing with the loss of a loved one can be difficult. Coping with that loss can be made even more difficult when trying to help a child through that process.

To help the youngest members of the community deal with their loss, Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center is gearing up for its annual Camp Braveheart.

"A lot of times, adults don’t feel comfortable talking to children about death," said Jen Sorrells, a camp organizer. "A lot of adults will tip toe around the subject, because they don’t have the vocabulary to discuss the issue with a child."

Although the camp’s attendance level has been growing steadily since it began in 1992, there is a shortage of volunteers.

"We like to have a ratio of two campers per ‘Big Buddy’ volunteer," said Sorrells. "Especially for our elementary school camp, we like to be sure that our campers are able to get lots of special attention."

Big Buddies serve as camp counselors and are required to give a commitment for the duration of the camp session. Food prep and service volunteers are also needed for a few hours each day to help prepare snacks and pick up and serve meals.

Because they run a complete background check on all camp volunteers, Camp Braveheart organizers are asking that potential volunteers sign up soon.

"The background checks usually take around two weeks to complete, so we need the volunteers to sign up soon. Especially for the elementary-level session, the deadline for volunteers to sign up is Friday," Sorrels said.

Throughout the summer, there will be three different, four-day Camp Braveheart sessions at Walters Barn in Lula. The first session begins on June 8 and is for elementary school students, the next session begins June 22 and is for middle schoolers and the final session begins on July 13 and is geared towards high school students.

"We all grieve differently as we get older," said Sorrells. "Camp is a way to let the children see that there are other kids who are going through the same thing. We remind them that they’re still kids; at camp they get to play and have fun, on top of the hard work of dealing with their emotions."

The day camp schedule is broken down into several different segments.

"The kids get dropped off between 8 and 8:30 in the morning. We start the day with art therapy — it’s a lot of fun and a lot of the time kids don’t realize that they are reflecting on their loss. We have them do things like make journals, memory boxes and masks," Sorrells said.

"Then in the afternoons we’ll go down and play in the creek or bring in inflatables for the kids to jump around in. We also do trust-building activities, because sometimes when kids go through a loss, they lose a little self-esteem and trust in others. So we work on helping them to regain that."

Although the first session is nearly full, there’s still room for additional campers at the middle school and high school sessions.



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