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Camp Stepping Stones Celebrates 15 Years

Interlake-Eastern Grief Camp to Celebrate 15 Years of Helping Kids Find Their Way Through Mourning

This June, the Interlake Eastern RHA’s Camp Stepping Stones will enter into its 15th year of providing a supportive camp experience for children who have suffered the recent loss of a loved one. Each year since 2004 approximately 50 kids have come to Camp Stepping Stones, a children’s grief camp for ages 7 to 17 held the first weekend in June at Camp Arnes

These young people have experienced the death of a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, a special relative or a good friend and may have endured multiple significant losses; their grief often isolating them from their families and friends. Camp creates the opportunity for these young folks to disconnect and spend the weekend with others who are also grieving, they learn that it’s ok to laugh, have fun and just be a kid again while remembering their loved one(s). 

The programing has changed very little over the years; a combination of memorial activities and traditional camp activities fill the weekend from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. What makes each year different are the campers’ individual journeys that have brought them to camp. Last year, the average age of the campers was 10 years old out of the 52 who attended, 54% of the kids had experienced the death of an immediate family member and 40 of them resided within the Interlake-Eastern RHA catchment area. 

So what exactly do the campers take away from attending camp stepping stones? When asked, some of the  campers provided these responses:

  • “how to deal with loss and that I am not alone” (14 year old, female)
  • “not to hold everything in because it will hurt more” (15 year old, female)
  • “its ok to cry, even though you lost someone they are always there with you” (12 year old, male)
  • “I learned that I’m not the only one who has lost somebody” (10 year old, male)
  • “it helps you say goodbye” (10 year old, male)

If not given the opportunity to cope with their grief, kids can experience low self-esteem, depression, academic failure and deterioration in relationships with family and friends. If grieving children are to heal, it is important to provide them with a safe and accepting environment. Camp Stepping Stones provides grieving kids and their families hope for the future, as one mom wrote: 

“It’s amazing what a few days and the love and compassion and care of beautiful people can accomplish in such a profound way. Your program truly has made a huge difference to my sons and daughters lives. Thank-you so much. ” Camp promotes healthy lifestyles and helps children and adolescents to develop lifelong coping skills for dealing with loss and grief.

To make Camp Stepping Stones a reality each year, over 30 volunteers are needed to help out as cabin leaders, activity leaders, camp nurse and more. Volunteer recruitment is now underway for various positions lasting just one day or the entire weekend. Camper applications for this year are due April 27th. For more information or to find Camp Stepping Stones camper or volunteer applications visit the Interlake-Eastern RHA website at www.ierha.ca under Palliative Care/Additonal Services in Communities or contact Camp Stepping Stones directly at 1.855.494.7369 or campsteppingstones@ierha.ca

 

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