HOSPICE CAMP EVERGREEN TO BE HELD AT CAMP HARRISON
By JERRY LANKFORD
Courtney Moulton seemed fearless as she climbed the high wooden wall at Camp Harrison.
The 6-year-old climbed high and still higher, negotiating footings along the way. Her only reaction was a constant smile and an occasional giggle as she hovered more than 20 feet off the ground.
Courtney was one of 48 youths who participated in Camp Evergreen, which was held at Camp Harrison in Boomer, on Monday.
Camp Evergreen is a one day experience for children and youth in grades one through 12 who have experienced the death of someone close. The day is designed to give participants an opportunity to express feelings about their loss and to learn that grief is a normal and ongoing process.
Hospice of Wilkes Regional Medical Center organizes the annual one-day camp. It was held Monday because it was a teacher workday and students were out of school. Hospice staff, school counselors and Camp Harrison staff combined their expertise to create a challenging experience for the youths who participated Monday.
Various activities are geared toward getting youths to communicate their feelings. One activity of the day was making memory boxes, said Margo Wheeler, a continuing family support counselor for Hospice. Then, youths placed items, which remind them of their deceased loved one, into a box.
"One boy cut out a picture of a watch that looked like the one his daddy wore," Wheeler said.
Others activities offer physical challenges that counselors use as examples. "We use the camp to show them how to work through tough times," Wheeler added. "We show them that when you're going through stormy times emotionally, there are things you can do, too."
It's easier to get children to open up about their feelings if they're busy, said Angie Shoemake, a social worker at Hospice and the director of Camp Evergreen. "Then they can talk and process it in their own way," Shoemake said. "If they do this while they're doing other activities, sometimes more information comes out."
During closing ceremonies on Monday, youths participating in the camp wrote on pieces of paper things they would like to say to deceased loved ones. The notes were then placed on a big rainbow.
"We tell them, like a rainbow, even though you can't touch one, doesn't make it any less real," Shoemake said.
United Way Contributions, community support and donations to Hospice Support a Child for $25 allow participants to attend Camp Evergreen at no charge. This year, because of the collaboration with Camp Harrison, teens participating in the program were able to do the ropes course available on the grounds. Younger children had other options for outdoor activities such as canoeing, hiking, or the climbing wall.
About Monday's camp, Shoemake said, "I think it went great. It's growing every year."
Then, looking at the smiles on the children's faces, she said, "This also lets them know that it's OK to have fun."
Hospice is a team of professionals who specialize in providing hope and care with dignity for someone who is not expected to live more than six months. The program provides emotional support to families as well. Hospice assists patients to remain at home in their final months and days where they can enjoy comfort and peace near family and loved ones.
Hospice of Wilkes Regional Medical Center is a United Way Agency. Referrals for services can be made by anyone by calling 336-903-7700.