To the editor:

State of the Heart Care hosted another successful weekend of Camp Encourage July 10 through 12, marking the 20th year of camp.

We had high hopes for our first-ever virtual camp this year and thanks to our volunteers and campers, our dreams and visions came true! In the few days leading up to camp, each camper received a care package in the mail full of camp goodies and activities they would participate in throughout the weekend.

On Thursday, July 9, we hosted a support session for parents with the help of Brittany Scheer and Living Music, LLC, to offer guidance and support to parents who have grieving children.

Camp Encourage at Home officially started on Friday night with our campers and volunteers meeting virtually; the energy and support was present right from the start. Our campers and staff all admitted to feeling a little nervous and hesitant at first because of the sensitive nature of grief while meeting new people on a computer screen. However, in true Camp Encourage form, the kids warmed up and felt more comfortable with their buddies by the end of the night. 

Saturday was our big day of events — we met with a panel of experts consisting of one of our hospice nurses; one of our chaplains; and a funeral home director, Scott Hogenkamp from Hogenkamp Funeral Homes. The kids had prepared some of their toughest questions for the experts, with the experts sharing their insightful and knowledgeable answers. By the afternoon, the campers were all participating in music therapy from State of the Heart Care’s music therapists while bonding with their groups and expressing their feelings to us in a trusted space.

By Sunday, the kids were opening up with their feelings and becoming more comfortable talking about their loss. In our closing ceremonies, State of the Heart Care’s chaplain shared a message of hope and encouragement that we are never alone. Even when grief or feelings seem overwhelming, we always have hope and helpers.

While we prefer to host camp with the kids in person, we were so thankful to be able to host it virtually and give the kids and families support during these difficult times. We look forward to next year and to continuing this amazing program for our communities.

If you would like more information on the bereavement services State of the Heart Care offers for adults or children, please call (800) 417-7535 or email our bereavement team at bereavementservices@stateoftheheartcare.org.

Ashlee Slavin

Camp Encourage director