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Family Time: Camp helps grieving kids find healing in each other's stories

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Make friends and share your story at Healing Adventures Camp.

Sponsored by Mayo Clinic Hospice and open to kids who have experienced the death of a loved one, the one-day camp is built around the themes of experiencing grief, acknowledging feelings, developing healthy coping strategies and having fun.

"Every camper's story is a little different, but the common theme is that they are all grieving," said Amy Stelpflug, volunteer coordinator Mayo Clinic Hospice. "They've lost someone and it hurts — and we understand that it hurts. But we also understand that there are positive ways to deal with that hurt, positive ways to handle that grief."

Camp begins by dividing the 30-some campers, ages 5 through 18, into age-appropriate groups, then continues with talking (about their loved one), listening (to other campers' stories), and having fun — nature hikes, crafts and games.

"One of the things we notice is that the campers tend to enter camp feeling that they are the only who has experienced the death of a loved one," Stelpflug said. "As we go around and, one-by-one, the kids share their stories, they start to see it's happened to you, and you, and you. They see that every kid there has had a loved one that died. They see that there are other people they can turn to, that they are part of a safe community."


Camp ends with ice cream sundaes and the opportunity to share all they've done and learned with their parents or favorite big people.

"At the end of camp the kids are so proud to share their art and introduce their parents, or other adult, to their new friends," Stelpflug said. "We hope they leave camp understanding that grief is normal, that it's part of everyone's life, that everybody will grieve at some point, and that at camp we can all start healing together."

Camp is offered free-of-charge, thanks to proceeds from the Saint Marys and Methodist Hospitals gift shops. Campers do not need to be affiliated with Mayo Clinic or Mayo Clinic Hospice. Prior registration is required and must be received by the hospice office by Aug. 31.


If you are interested:

What: Healing Adventures Camp

Where: Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, 7291 County Road 6 SW

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16


Phone: 507-284-4527


More about HAC

• Healing Adventures Camp is staffed by trained volunteers, most from Mayo Clinic Hospice and Mayo Clinic.

• Camp is not just for kids. An adult support group for the families of the grieving children will be held the first 1.5 hours of camp. It's an opportunity for adults to share their stories and connect to other families.

• Camp is held two times a year — fall and spring.

• As kids grow and develop, they experience (or re-experience) grief in different ways. Because of this, kids can attend camp more than once and sometimes do.



Family calendar

Tiptoe through the treetops

Head up, up, up at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center's Summer High Ropes Challenge, 28097 Goodview Drive, Lanesboro. Youth ages 10 and older and adults can travel over logs, through tunnels, and under wires before ziplining to the bottom, Tuesdays (1 p.m.) and Saturdays (10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), through August. Sign up at — click on seasonal events tab. Cost is $25.

What's next?Trick-or-treat along the way at Eagle Bluff's Haunted High Ropes. Held from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 27, family members 10 and older will make their way through the high ropes course enjoying s'mores at the end of the course. Open to ages 6 and older. Cost is $25. Register online.

Night vision

Explore what's out there at Oxbow Park's Night Hike, 8 p.m. Saturday. Families will meet at the park's campground restroom building, then head out with staff to see what life is like for Minnesota-native nocturnal animals. Free. Call 507-775-2541 to find out more.

What else?Oxbow Park offers free, family-friendly programs most weekends, year round. Up next it's Animal Enrichment (Sept. 2), Wolves (Sept. 9) and Tree ID (Sept. 16). Go to for a complete list of programs.

Bye, bye summer

Say goodbye to summer at the Rochester Public Library's Family Dance Party, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 29. It's open to family members of all ages. The event is free and doesn't require registration. Call 507-328-2303 with questions.

Is there more?RPL offers free, family-friendly special events and activities year-round. Up next it's Rainbow Family Fun (Sept. 5), Science Storytime (Sept. 6) and Toddler Time (Sept. 7). Check out all the events online at .

On your mark

Get set, go to Quarry Hill Nature Center's second annual Run Wild Trail Run and Wild Child Dash, Sept. 2. The 1K kid's run starts at 8:30 a.m., with the 5K run/hike beginning at 9:15 a.m. Register online, , or on site the day of the event. Proceeds provide scholarships to Quarry Hill's summer nature camp.

Is there more?Quarry Hill Nature Center is open year-round and offers free admission to the nature center (check out the live animals) and park (more than eight miles of trails). Families can borrow geocache GPS units, birding binoculars, and nature-themed Discovery Packs from the nature center. Cross country skis and snowshoes are available to rent, from the nature center, in the winter. Go online or call 507-328-3950 for details.

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