Camp Erin Tulsa is just around the corner! Camp Erin is Oklahoma’s first overnight grief camp for kids and teens who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life. Camp is provided completely free to campers and their families, and is staffed by The Grief Center’s bereavement professionals and trained volunteers.
Today, we wanted to introduce you to two of those very special people.
This month, we have two guest writers on our blog! Meet Amanda Shank and Joanna Majka!
Amanda is a Board Member, President Emeritus, and a camp volunteer veteran! Since she first started working with Camp Erin, she has never missed a year, and we wanted her to share why she will be back at this year’s day camp for yet another camp weekend.
Joanna is a grief counselor at The Grief Center, and has been instrumental in making our camp dreams a reality from day one! She has served as Camp Director, Clinical Director, Big Buddy, and more - filling any role needed to make sure that our campers get the most out of this life changing weekend. We asked her what she would tell a guardian who is thinking about signing up their camper this year.
Check out their posts below.
I became a volunteer for The Grief Center about four and a half years ago and served as a camp counselor our very first summer to host. In that first year of camp, I served as a counselor for the teen girls. Of the 13 girls in our cabin, 8 of them had recently lost a father or father figure. My own introduction to grief began when I was just 18 and my father died after battling cancer. I didn’t realize how quickly I would see my own grief journey represented in these girls.
Camp Erin was truly a transformative weekend not only for all the kids involved, but counselors and volunteers as well. Allowing these campers to share their own personal grief stories with one another gave them a safe environment to dive in to their emotions and recognize that they are not alone in grief. For some, camp is one of the only places where they’ve been able to share their story and be around peers who share a similar experience.
After that very first year, it was not difficult to get me back for a second year. (and a third and a fourth!) What I wasn’t prepared for was observing firsthand the impact of camp on those kids that returned and their grieving process.
I witnessed a radical change in behavior; where in the first year these kids were shy, standoffish, and probably terrified…their entire mentality had changed. They had come back the second year personable, prepared and eager to communicate openly about their grief and even willing to serve as an example for the newer, younger kids. Seeing their progress made me wish I had something like this that I could’ve attended when my loss was still very new.
Camp provides a positive and safe environment the kids need to feel empowered while facing their own personal grief journey. It’s the perfect combination of fun and camp silliness combined with time for processing and honoring their loved ones in a meaningful way. Camp introduces these children to ways to cope with their grief by allowing them to share their story, by offering a listening ear or meeting a silly counselor, or by providing someone who will sit quietly on the swing with them while they cry.
Last year, we all experienced an unprecedented year of change. And with that change came more grief and devastation than we could have prepared for as a community. Now more than ever, our children need a safe space to heal.
This year we are coming back for Camp Erin and have adapted to the needs of our community by offering a day camp to ensure the safety and well-being of campers and volunteers.
While the world around us continues to change, we are determined now more than ever to serve our community, no matter what. As a Board Member, I know the importance of our volunteers and donors to ensure the sustainability of The Grief Center and it’s programs like Camp Erin. Please consider supporting Camp Erin with your time, talent, and treasure by volunteering or making a donation today. Camp Erin has forever impacted my life and I know it will do the same for you!
For years, I have been saying if you know a grieving child, do whatever it takes to get them to Camp Erin. I’m wondering how I can say it even louder this year! It is not the only way to help a child after a loss…but in my opinion, the weekend offers deep healing in an environment that is unlike any other experience. During camp, each child has the opportunity to tell their story, to name the feelings associated with their loss, to memorialize their loved one, to learn that they are not alone, to learn new coping skills, and campers get to be kids through fun activities.
During the pandemic, a child’s grief didn’t get put on hold, The changes this past year have only complicated and interrupted what a child needs for processing grief in a healthy way. For this reason, I believe that Camp Erin 2021 is probably more important this year than any other year. Whether a child experienced a new loss this past year or had to learn how to navigate their grief during this new world, children need a safe place to grieve. Camp will look a little different this year due to COVID-19, because safety is a priority for us. But we are so thankful to be able to provide a safe place for our campers to explore their loss and to know they are not alone.
If you know a child or teen ages 6-17 that would benefit from attending Camp Erin, please visit our Camp Erin page here on our website to learn more, or click here to register online.