Healing Adventures Camp offers a helping hand and a listening ear to kids who have experienced the death of a loved one. Organized by Mayo Hospice, the no-charge-to-families day camp is open to kids ages 6 to 17 and starts with a visit from a furry friend.

“Kids and parents can be anxious coming to camp. Our therapy dogs (provided by Caring Canines and Mayo Clinic Hospice pet therapy volunteers) are there to greet them with a friendly face,” said Amy Stelpflug, volunteer coordinator, Mayo Clinic Hospice. “They are available to give a hug, to help with the transition.”

Once camp starts, participants are divided into age-based groups and spend the day petting animals in the petting zoo, writing songs with a music therapist and taking nature walks.

“Through games, activities and crafts, kids get to talk about who in their life died, share some favorite memories,” said Stelpflug. “Camp is a chance for kids to share their stories and feelings in a safe place. It’s also a chance to meet other kids who are grieving. The kids quickly learn they are not alone in their grief, as the other children at camp are grieving as well. But camp is not all tears and sadness. Camp is fun and offers the chance for kids to be kids.”

Camp is capped at 35 campers and is facilitated by Mayo Clinic Hospice staff and volunteers and Mayo Clinic volunteers. Camp is funded by Rochester Methodist and Saint Marys Volunteer Leadership Councils utilizing funds generated by both locations’ gift shops.

“We’re not therapy. We’re not counseling. We’re supportive listening,” said Stepflug. “A lot of parents will say, ‘Gosh, I don’t know how to bring this up to my child. I don’t know how to start the conversation.' In our society, death and grief can be a taboo topic. But if given the chance, a lot of kids, and adults, will talk about it. A lot of people don’t know how to approach the topic of death and how to best help kids share feelings around grief. Camp is a chance for kids to share their stories and feelings in a safe place and oftentimes opens up conversations for the entire family.”

Completed application packets must be returned to the Mayo Clinic Hospice office by Friday, Sept. 13. Please contact the Mayo Clinic Hospice office for application packets.

Lindy Lange is a licensed school social worker. Family Time appears every Wednesday. Up next: Parents of little ones, it's time to register for a PAIIR fall semester class.

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