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Katherine paddling a canoe at Camp Spero

Camp Spero- Helping Children Cope with Grief

By Janet Clancy

Last summer, Katherine’s dad, Tom, asked her if she would like to attend Camp Spero, a weekend grief camp hosted by The Elizabeth Hospice. Her mom, Donna, had passed away from cancer four months earlier. From what Dad described, Katherine, age 9, thought it would be “really cool and fun” to attend camp. The actual experience far exceeded her expectations.

At Camp Spero, Katherine was surrounded by kids who understand grief because they, too, had lost a loved one. Together they shared cherished memories and learned healthy coping skills while enjoying fun activities like rock climbing, canoeing and performing in a talent show. At night, she and her bunkmates and counselors would put on their PJs and talk and tell stories.

“The activity that really touched my heart was the lantern ceremony,” said Katherine. “Each of us decorated a paper bag – I drew a picture of my mom on mine. That night, we added a light to our bag. The bags were placed on a raft and set sailing across the lake. It was so beautiful.”

“Camp changed me. I became more confident when I realized that I wasn’t the only one in the world that had something like this happen,” continued Katherine. “I learned that it’s important to speak about your feelings. You don’t need to hide your anger and sadness – you should share them with your parent, teacher or counselor. And camp inspired me to use all the funniness in my body – to let it pop out.”

“We are so fortunate to have this amazing camp in our community,” shared Tom. “When Donna died, there was nobody in our life who could relate to our situation. At camp, Katherine met other kids who were experiencing similar emotions. And the counselors made Katherine feel empowered. Camp Spero gave my little girl just what she needed.”

Katherine knows that her mom would love the grief work that she’s doing. “My mom was a person who liked to make people happy – to put smiles on their faces. I’m sure she’d say, ‘You go, girl.”

Camp registration is now open. San Diego youth who are coping with the death of a special person in their life can find support and comfort at Camp Spero, an overnight weekend grief camp hosted by The Elizabeth Hospice. Camp Spero offers children and teens a weekend filled with traditional camp fun and many opportunities to honor and memorialize their loved one. There is no cost to attend and the camp is open to all children, ages 7 to 17, in San Diego County and Southwest Riverside County.

There are two sessions of Camp Spero – one for children and teens who have never attended grief camp (newcomers) and one for children and teens who previously attended our grief camp (alumni). The newcomers camp is scheduled for May 29 – May 31 in Julian. Camper and volunteer applications are available now at www.elizabethhospice.org/camp.  For more information, email campspero@ehospice.org or call 760.796.3705.