Hospice to host camps for grieving children

ALBANY, Ga. -- The loss of a loved one can be hard on anyone, but it can be especially tough on the younger members of the population.

In acknowledgment of that, Albany Community Hospice is offering two-day camps for children in order to help them come to terms with their loss.

Camp Good Grief will be held for those who have completed kindergarten through the fifth grade, and Camp Journey will be held for middle school and high school students June 2-3.

Volunteers and staff will engage participants in games, artistic expression and small group discussions. At the end of the second day, a memorial service will be held at the Potter Community Center at 4 p.m. for participants in both camps.

"They (the participants) can see they are not alone in their loss, and it gives them a safe place to express their grief," said Erica Cuneo, bereavement coordinator at Albany Community Hospice.

Jessica Way, a 16-year-old from Lee County, was referred to the camp by a school counselor after the loss of a friend. After having participated in it last year, she said she would recommend it to anyone else.

"I was really nervous because I didn't know anybody," she recalled. "We formed a circle and talked about loss, and I felt I could talk to (the other participants).

"I would definitely recommend this. You learn to open up. The counselors are very helpful, and it's a big bonding experience."

Jessica's mother, Rhonda Way, said she has noticed a big difference in her daughter since her involvement in Camp Journey.

"She was a real basket case beforehand," Way said. "When she came out of it (the camp), she learned to deal with her loss. It helped her. I'm glad for that, because she went through a hard time.

"It gave her another way of looking at it."

Jessica, who is currently looking into volunteering at the camps next year, said she still keeps in touch with the people she met at Camp Journey.

"I still get postcards and Christmas cards in the mail," she said. "They keep in touch with you."

The camps are for all children in the community who have lost a significant figure in their life within the last several months. Participation is free of charge. Registrations will be taken up until Tuesday.

Drop-off time will be 7:30 a.m. on both days at the Willson Hospice House. Pick-up on the first day will be at 4:30 p.m. and immediately following the memorial service the second day.

Funding for the camps come from the Lopez Hospice Golf Classic and other community fundraisers. Camp Good Grief has been offered for 15 years. Three years ago, the age groups split to form Camp Journey.

For more information on the event, call (229) 312-7050.