Helping youth deal with grief


Last updated 5/14/2024 at 10:17am

Photo provided

Power sticks created by the campers.

The loss of a loved one is never easy, but for a child the trauma can create feelings of confusion, overwhelming sadness, loss of control, anger, guilt, and abandonment. Most children, especially the younger ones, lack the vocabulary to express what they are feeling.

Since 1999, Camp Sunrise - a place for grieving children - has held a weekend camp that provides a safe, nurturing place for children ages 7-14 to gather with others who have lost a loved one and explore their grief and loss and begin the healing process. This year there will be two sections of campers - a full weekend residential camp for age 7-12/13 and 12 hours on Saturday for 12/13-17-year-olds.

This year the camp will take place beginning Friday evening, June 14, through midday Sunday, June 16. The teens will attend all day Saturday. Camp is held at Suttle Lake Camp which has a main lodge, cabins for campers, large fields, and a space for campfires.

The program includes multiple expressive arts activities, including the creation of power sticks from tree branches and memory boats. The boats are constructed using large pieces of ponderosa bark that will float. Using all natural materials like pinecones, sticks, flowers, bird seed, and paper, each camper makes a boat in memory of their loved one. On Sunday morning, a procession of campers and counselors wend their way down to the shore of Lake Creek where each camper individually releases their memory boat to be carried down the creek to the river and on to the ocean, representing the circle and seasons of life.

Music is a large part of the weekend. It helps accomplish the transitions between the playful fun times and the deep moments of contemplation. The music ties the whole camp experience together. Campers learn the Camp Sunrise song, "Keep Me in Your Heart for a While," which opens and closes the camp as the camp flag is raised and lowered.

Each year the camp is an amazing roller coaster ride of emotions, activities, fun and laughter, contemplation, new friendships, and tears. Campers discover they are not alone in their grief. There are others experiencing similar feelings of loss and sadness.

Camp Sunrise was begun 25 years ago by Hospice of Redmond social worker Janet Whitney. In the early years, the camp was a collaboration of Redmond, Hospice of Bend (now Partners in Care), and Pioneer Memorial Hospice in Prineville, but is now solely a program of Hospice of Redmond.

Photo provided

Camper and counselor sharing a moment.

Camp Director is Kat Rachman, who is the bereavement coordinator for Hospice of Redmond. Shawn Diez, a school counselor at Redmond Proficiency Academy, has served as the camp facilitator for almost a decade, overseeing the daily camp activities. Shae Gascon will serve as the music director for a second year.

The camp could not happen if not for a large group of volunteers. If interested in volunteering to help with setup and cleanup, organizing art supplies, and spending time with campers, go to where there are forms. A few more counselors are also needed. To register a camper please call Kat Rachman, Monday-Thursday, at Hospice of Redmond, 541-548-7483.

Camp Sunrise is offered at no cost to campers, made possible by donations, grants, and the sale of the Camp Sunrise tree at the Festival of Trees held every December.


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