Above: a glimpse of the Balloon Releasing Ceremony. On the last day of camp, parents join the kids to write something on a balloon and release it into the air for their loved one.

Above: a glimpse of the Balloon Releasing Ceremony. On the last day of camp, parents join the kids to write something on a balloon and release it into the air for their loved one.

Hosted by Center for Compassionate Care of The Elizabeth Hospice, Camp Erin® San Diego is a free annual weekend summer camp open to local children and teens who are grieving from the death of someone close to them.

The experience, supported in part by The Moyer Foundation (part of the largest nationwide network of free bereavement camps), combines traditional, high-energy camp activities with grief support and education.

We sent a CT20! ambassador and business travel account manager, Leah Shader, to Julian to participate in Camp Erin® San Diego 2015 this past June, where 104 children and teens between the ages of 6-17 were hosted. The campers, along with the care and support of 86 volunteers, were invited to join in a variety of activities from rock climbing, trust activities, archery, paintball, night hikes, plate breaking, and team building. Most importantly, there were some great friends made along the way.

This invaluable network of volunteers is passionate about giving children an outlet to express their feelings and a chance to cope with their pain... From the words of the campers themselves, the experiences are life changing.

"Camp Erin showed me that I am not alone.  It helped me make new amazing friends and taught me how to deal with my feelings."

"It let me say the words I never got to say."

"I have held back for a long time, but I believe that my sadness has turned to happiness.  Now when I think of my dad, I will be filled with love and memories."

Leah recapped her experience for us below:

"It was definitely an emotional weekend.. a lot of tears but also a lot of fun and smiles. It’s so sad to hear about what some of these kids have experienced in their short lives. The first night was most powerful for me as one by one each camper got up with a picture of their loved and said how they died or what they missed most. I was impressed by their ability to do this but it also wrenched my heart. I am so glad there is something like this to help them have fun again and heal. And I was really blessed to be a part of it."

Interested in learning more about Camp Erin or the Moyer Foundation? Visit the elizabethhospice.org/camperin or moyerfoundation.org, or look for the HBO special, "One Last Hug" featuring Camp Erin (preview below).


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