I can’t wait for Friday. This will be my 8th year serving as a camp counselor for Kara’s annual Camp Erin. With camp just two days away, I find myself reflecting upon and thinking about the many expectations that campers, volunteers and staff (as well as parents and caregivers) have as we all approach this healing weekend.
For the campers, it’s the expectation of fun activities, s’mores at the candlelight campfire and being around other kids on their journey of loss. The sense of isolation they experience in their daily lives of being the boy or girl in their class who has suffered a significant death is no longer an issue – at least for the weekend, everyone at Camp is ‘just like them.’
For the volunteers, camp counselors, and “cabin buddies,” it’s the expectation of ‘holding a safe space’ for these first graders through teenagers in a way that promotes connection and healing. The expectations of providing their campers opportunities to share special memories, express feelings through discussion, art, and play, and develop new tools for coping and building resilience.
For the leadership and support staff it’s the expectation of making sure all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted; that the activity bins are perfectly filled, the weather cooperates, and the nursing station is stocked with plenty of Gatorade and Otter Pops. The expectation that all the plans are now in place to provide an amazing healing experience for the 88 Campers as well as a strong emotional support system for the 50 incredible volunteers.
We often say that ‘magic happens’ at Camp. I equate this magic to healing. Witnessing this firsthand for the past 7 years, it’s clear to me that this ‘magic’ is due to the collective expectations for healing held by everyone participating in Camp Erin – the Many Hands of Healing!
I remember a time at Camp a few years ago when our team of 10 year old boys and girls was participating in a grief activity called ‘normalizing emotions.’ Kids and adults alike shared about the person who died in their life and an emotion they experienced because of their loss. When it was my turn, I shared about the loss of my 10-year-old daughter Jillian and the sadness I felt after her death. After the activity was complete and we were moving along to our next adventure, one of the girls in the group whose father had died, came up to me and said, “I am really sorry about your daughter. That must have been really hard.”
My heart was filled with a deep appreciation for her empathic response and genuine gesture of kindness. In a Camp intended to help kids heal, this camper wanted to be sure that I was healing too. It was a moment I will never forget. Moreover, it crystallized for me the collective healing power of the Camp. The campers, volunteers, staff, and parents and caregivers; these are the Many Hands of Healing.
So as Camp starts on Friday, I am energized, excited and most importantly, extremely grateful to serve as one of the many hands of healing!
Kara Executive Director