Kids help kids at Healing Adventures Camp. Hosted by Mayo Clinic Hospice and held at Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, the free, one-day camp brings together kids who have experienced the death of a loved one.
"The goal of camp is to connect kids who have experienced the death of a loved one to other kids who have experienced the death of a loved one," said Amy Stelpflug, volunteer coordinator, Mayo Clinic Hospice. "Kids often think they are the only person who has had a loved one die. They don't understand that there are other kids experiencing similar feelings and life changes until they are able to meet those other kids and share their stories."
Relatively small in size, camp is capped at about 30 campers ages 5 to 18 and offers kids the opportunity to share their stories while participating in a variety of games, crafts and indoor and outdoor activities, including a petting zoo, climbing wall and nature walks.
"The volunteers facilitate various games, physical activities, music, crafts, sharing circles, and nature walks throughout the day, which gives the kids a way to articulate their stories and feelings with each other," Stelpflug said. "Many times kids have a difficult time talking about the loved one that died with family and/or friends. This is because they don't want to make others sad or others don't understand what they are experiencing. At Healing Adventures Camp, volunteers and fellow campers are respectful of stories and feelings and everyone understands what it feels like to have someone close to you die. It is a safe place to share stories and feelings."
Helping make it all possible are two dozen-plus volunteers who do everything from registering campers to organizing group games and running small groups, to serving as camp counselors.
"You need many hands to make camp happen," Stelpflug said. "We have Mayo Clinic Hospice volunteers and Mayo Clinic employees who are very vested in camp. They consistently volunteer their time at camp each year. The volunteers do a great job making camp fun while allowing campers to share memories and feelings, as well as teaching campers healthy coping skills to use now and in the future."
Space is limited at camp and registration is due by Sept. 9. To register, a parent or guardian must call for a camp application.
"Kids do not have to be affiliated with Mayo Clinic and they don't have to be from this area," Stelpflug said, noting that camp regularly pulls kids from across Minnesota and out of state. "As kids age, they grieve the loss in different ways. So, yes, kids can attend camp more than once as long as they have an appropriate goal for attending additional camps."