Cabin Connections, Rock Climbing, Comfort Dogs & Bacon = HEALING!

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Cabin Connections, Rock Climbing, Comfort Dogs & Bacon = HEALING!

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In just 4 days Kara will conduct our 10th Camp Erin at Camp Arroyo in Livermore. We are diligently planning the final details to make this a memorable three days for over 85 kids and 40 volunteers. I am very grateful to the Moyer Foundation and all our wonderful supporters that help to make Camp a reality!

camp-erin-2015-girl-with-noodles_celogoThis will be my 7th year serving as a camp counselor. I look forward to this weekend each year,  as I am always inspired and amazed by the healing and transformation that occurs in the span of just 45 hours. I often think about what makes this weekend so special.  Is it the grief activities – on memory sharing, normalizing emotions, comfort and care, and changes and transitions? Or the deep discussions that occur after the lights turn off in cabins? Or perhaps it is the comfort dogs, musical expression sessions, or arts and crafts activities. Is it the rock-wall climbing, zip-lining, or splashing in the pool in 95 degree heat? Or maybe it’s the otter pops at the nurse station or the amazing food and unlimited bacon at breakfast! Perhaps it is the Saturday night candlelight ceremony followed by s’mores?

I recall a few years ago, when one 11 year old camper in my cabin was having a rough time processing his feelings.  It started to show up as anger and frustration with and toward the other boys, to the point where an interaction prompted him to run away from the group.  I caught up with him, walked side by side with him, and began a conversation around the things that he and his mom who had died from cancer used to like to do together.  He shared that a favorite time was going to the beach together.  I mentioned that the beach was also a place I loved to go with my daughter too before she died from cancer. We both agreed that those memories were complicated; they were certainly really special but they made us pretty sad too.  As we walked, we continued talking and shared more memories about his mom and a few about my daughter, and acknowledged how we really missed them.  We both had a few tears in our eyes as we made our way back to the group.  Upon arrival, and without prompting, the other boys encouraged him to join them in a game a dodge ball and just like that, he was happily engaged in the fun. And my heart was moved by our connection and the caring of his cabin-mates.

As I have reflected on the Camp over these past years, I have come to realize that there isn’t just one thing that makes the weekend so meaningful.

But, it is a combination of the people, the shared caring, and the focused activities that create a space for deep healing and resilience building.  It’s the opportunity for these boys and girls and teenagers to be with their peers who are also trying to figure out life without that family member who died. It’s the accompaniment of the campers by counselors who have endured losses as well and compassionately share in the suffering of an unwanted journey.

Now when new counselors ask me what to expect at Camp, I reply quite simply. You will be hot (mid 90’s this weekend!), but most importantly, you will have the special privilege of participating in and witnessing healing through the power of connection, compassion, care and fun.

I can’t wait until Friday.  Bring on the heat and the healing!

Jim Santucci,
Kara Executive Director