Below is a great article written by Josh Ewers of The Bryan Times about CHP’s Rays of Hope Camp in Archbold which will finished on July 20th.
The jubilant sound of children playing is not a concept usually associated with the grieving process, but they go hand in hand at Community Health Professionals of Bryan and Archbold’s Rays of Hope Camp.
Each year, countless young people lose a loved one and have little idea how to process what they’re going through, which is why the three-day program for area children aged 6-16 was created.
“We’re doing it because kids are sometimes forgotten grievers,” said Rebecca Short, one of three licensed social workers on staff during the camp at Ruihley Pavilion in Archbold.
Short said that when “parents are … working through their own grieving process, sometimes the kids don’t have the opportunity to work through it, so this gives them the chance, in a safe place with other kids, to work through it.”
For the 12 children in attendance this year, it was as much about the fun activities as anything else, making it like any other summer camp. Such activities included a visit from a traveling zoo, numerous art projects and a trampoline/bungee jumping hybrid referred to as a “flying monkey jump.”
“I was afraid of the snakes, but I petted it anyway,” 10-year old Collin Johnson of Montpelier said proudly. Johnson was the only camp-goer from Williams County. “I wish I had a corn snake like that.”
Short said the counselors try to “balance fun and seriousness at the same time.”
“Partly because it’s fun and partly because it’s exercise, which releases endorphins they need to make them feel good,” she said. “And it helps them burn off energy because they have lots of it.”
But as Short explained, time is set aside each day to address the reason for their participation in the camp via group sessions.
For some, the morning’s activities — which included making memory lanterns and writing their feelings on a rock and putting them all together in a backpack — were already seeming to help bring them out of their shells.
Short said the rock activity was meant to “illustrate that grief is heavy sometimes, but if we work together to process it, we can lighten that load a lot.”
The frequently smiling and upbeat Johnson had no trouble talking about his own difficult loss after only one heart-to-heart session that morning.
“The loved one I lost was my brother,” Johnson said. “He died on Oct. 24 and we buried him on Halloween … He got hit by a car.”
Short’s idea for the rock activity seemed to have taken hold.
“It’s good to have all these people around to have company,” Johnson said. “We talked about our loved ones, when they passed away … It feels good to talk about … It helped a lot”
“I like everything about everything here,” Johnson said of his experience thus far before running off for another activity.
Tuesday was the first day of the three-day camp.
“They were all a little standoffish, a little shy, this morning, but as you can see that’s not an issue anymore,” Short said. “They’re all bonding very well now.”
Participants attended the camp free of charge, thanks to donations from churches, organizations and businesses.