The Journey of Camp Courage
Posted by Trevor Boburka
Camp Courage is JourneyCare's annual grief support camp that helps children and teens cope with the death of a loved one while having summer fun. Entirely supported by charitable donations, the program helps campers deal with their loss while they enjoy art, music, sports and other activities with friends.
I cannot begin to explain how remarkable Camp Courage is for everyone involved in just a quick blog post. My intention here is to convey what Camp Courage meant to me as a camp counselor this summer, and what I hope the kids can take from camp to use in the future to help cope with the loss of a loved one. The most wonderful thing I observed was how these kids recovered the hope and confidence they may have initially lost along with their loved one.
The first thing we did at Camp Courage was gather in the grand hall and present pictures of parents, grandparents, siblings and others who had passed away. Some of the kids were so excited to share their favorite memory, they scampered up without hesitation and tried to share every memory they had in just a few short minutes. The campers who were overburdened with sadness needed a parent’s hand to hold or lap to collapse in after presenting their picture. If others could watch this, I couldn’t imagine there being a dry eye there, because the sincerity with which these kids spoke and moved seemed to echo in the grand hall all week.
The level of maturity I witnessed from even the youngest group of campers was such a surprise because they were processing their feelings during every lull between activities. It seemed like each day of the week a different camper was opening up and sharing their feelings. In the group of 6-year-olds I led, my favorite thing they were aware of was allowing themselves to be vulnerable and already knowing that even the toughest of men can cry.
We had a camper in our group who had a hard time investing in the process and would often be found sitting alone, lashing out and complaining about the activities. At the end of the first day this camper announced that he would not be coming back. I felt it was my challenge to change his attitude for the week because I saw a part of myself in this camper ̶ when I was young and lost my mom. By positively reinforcing his participation, I began to see that 6-year-old spirit and sense of wonder return his eyes.
As a child, the first death that really holds weight and makes loss tangible can have both positive and negative impressions on a young mind. That first loss we all experience, the one that introduces death as a normal aspect in life, is always the hardest to understand. The progress these kids made throughout the week by processing these heavy emotions was like night becoming day.
For more information on Camp Courage, as well as 2017 bereavement programs for high school age youth, call 224-770-CARE.