Dealing with the death of a family member can be hard for anyone, but is perhaps even more difficult for young children.
Last Thursday, kids who experienced the loss of a loved one were given the opportunity to enjoy a day full of smiles at the first Jessica’s House Grief Day Camp.
More than 50 children participated in the one-day camp put on by Emanuel Medical Center’s grief support program Jessica’s House – a place where children and families spend time with others experiencing grief due to the loss of a family member.
“Jessica’s House first annual Day Camp gave 55 children an opportunity to heal together,” said Erin Nelson, executive director of Jessica’s House. “We had different games and art activities to help children connect with other children who have experienced similar grief. It gives children and families an opportunity to share their feelings and express their grief in a creative way, as well as build memories and lasting friendships.”
Nelson said that campers honored their loved ones by creating a paper flower for the memory garden in a ceremony held before lunch. After lunch, campers decorated shoes with various art supplies to personify their loved one who passed away.
“Through activities, games, art and ceremonies, children in K-8th grades who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or close family relative supported one another,” said Nelson.
The day began at 9 a.m. Thursday at Crane Park and ended at 3 p.m. In the morning, campers were able to participate in fun icebreaker games, and had an opportunity to share their story with other campers. After a grilled lunch by volunteers, campers had art time, followed by various team-building games such as a hula-hoop pass.
“The hula-hoop activity is where everyone in a circle passes through a hula-hoop, never breaking the circle,” said Emanuel spokesperson Pennie Rorex. “In all events at camp, we want to build into the harder ones, to send positive reinforcement to the campers. Conversations during the activity will focus on what it feels like to be part of a group.”
More than 40 trained volunteers and 15 teen junior counselors helped to make the first Day Camp a success.
At the end of the day, campers were given a pillowcase with the Jessica’s House logo on it for their new friends to sign, as well as an opportunity to reflect on the day with other campers.
“At Jessica’s House we close by saying one thing,” said Nelson. “We are looking forward to between now and the next time we meet.”
To learn more about Jessica's House, call (209) 250-5395 or visit http://www.emanuelmedicalcenter.org/jessicashouse/. Jessica's House is located at 741 E. Main Street in Turlock. However, out of respect to grieving families, visits to Jessica's House are by appointment only.