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Kids deal with loss at Camp Braveheart
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Karla Owens, center, talks Saturday to Noah Doran, left, and Hana Doran about a paper island Noah and Hana created as a part of the Camp Braveheart seminar at the Martha Hope Cabin. - photo by Tom Reed

Camp Braveheart

To make a donation to Hospice of Northeast Georgia or learn more about the Camp Braveheart
program, call 770-219-8888.

Sometimes even tiny hearts have to be extremely brave.

Kids who have suffered the loss of a loved one gathered Saturday morning at the Martha Hope Cabin in Gainesville for the Camp Braveheart Family Seminar.

These kids, along with their families, are proving that despite loss, love can live on.

Through its Braveheart Program, Hospice of Northeast Georgia offers support groups for children who have lost a loved one. The program is coordinated through school counselors. Since 1995, more than 300 children have participated.

The program offers a weeklong day camp in June and July, to be held this year at Walters Barn in Lula. Camps are set for June 14-18 for elementary school students and July 12-16 for middle and high school students. It is free to any child who has experienced the death of a close relative or loved one.

Saturday’s seminar is new to the Braveheart Program. Hospice members realized that while it is important for children to have a place to grieve, other family members can benefit from a family workshop where they can connect with other families.

“I think that often when we experience a death in the family, it is isolating,” bereavement counselor Karla Brookreson-Owens said. “There is this fear of talking about it, but here there is a fun activity with the combination of talking about it.”

Brookreson-Owens said that there is a commonality between people who have lost a loved one — they can realize that they are not alone.

“There is this idea that when someone has died, they don’t exist. Well, they exist in the heart,” Brookreson-Owens said. “When you have a healthy understanding about death and loss, you have good memories.”

Brookreson-Owens explained that children change across the lifespan with their understanding of death and dying.

“We have kids that come back to camp and are still processing their loss years down the road because it doesn’t stop,” Brookreson-Owens said. “Kids change so much growing up into adolescence and even in their 20s.”

Art therapist Jenny Welty-Green was in charge of some of the activities Saturday, including “Survival on an Island.” Every family used paper and paste to create their own “island” and were allowed to choose three things to have with them while “stranded.”

“The purpose is to get groups working together and problem solving,” Welty-Green said. “I wanted to start with a family activity first, so the family could work together.”

To Welty-Green, the project symbolically represents how the family can still function as a family, even without a missing loved one.
Everyone then participated in a clay project in which they created a sculpture while negotiating with the people beside them.

Welty-Green believes that hands-on activities and experiential work is crucial because it moves energy, gets people involved and removes communication barriers.

“I’m all about strength and positive work and looking at how no matter where they are in their grief, they can still function and still be a part of the community,” Welty-Green said. “When they share this afternoon, I’m hoping that what one family is doing may help another family. It may give them different resources or ideas of how they can cope.”

Grandmother Nodya Havice and daughter Judith Brock were at the family seminar Saturday with Brock’s children, three of which participated in Camp Braveheart last summer.

Havice was enjoying the “Survival on an Island” project.

“This is great, having all of the family working together,” she said.

“I think it was huge for them to see that they are not alone, and there were other kids their ages that were also sad, so it was OK for them to be sad.”

Cindy Harrell, who has two children that participated in Camp Braveheart last summer, said being able to feel less lonely while having fun was great.

“It also gave them the opportunity to create a little memory box, and they seem to treasure that,” Harrell said.

Kimberlee Buscovick, who lost her son in a car accident in September, plans for two of her grandchildren to attend camp this summer. She believes it is important for her grandchildren to hold onto memories of their father because he is a part of who they are.

“I want them to remember what a good man he was, how he was good to everybody, how much he loved them, and how much he loved life,” Buscovick said.

Camp Braveheart is accepting applications for volunteers to serve as a “Big Buddy,” assist with food preparation or transportation, or general help. Training is set for May 20.

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