Camp Gives Sense of Community to Grieving Children

A special camp in the San Diego County city of Vista is giving children struggling with the loss of a parent or loved one a chance not to feel like they are in it alone.

The Experience Camps aims to help children process the pain and grief they may feel after losing someone close to them.

In California, the free weeklong camp will be held at Green Oak Ranch in Vista in August.

Many of the participants, kids from grades 4 to 12, come to the camp with emotions that could be difficult for even adults to go through.

Janell Anderson, a camp attendee, lost her father to prostate cancer and said the grief started affecting her life. 

"You know grades start slipping," Anderson said. "I was worried about my mom, worried about my other siblings, it was really hard for me but coming to Experience Camps did a lot for me."

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates 1.5 million children are living in a single-family home because of the death of a parent.

Grieving children are at higher risk than non-grieving peers for depression, anxiety, poor school attendance or dropping out, isolation, behavior problems, lowered academic achievement, drug and/or alcohol abuse, incarceration or suicide.

About 150 kids are expected to go through the camp this summer, where they will participate in activities like swimming, arts & craft, and or sports with peers that have gone through similar life experiences.

A unique feature of the camp is its sharing circles where the children are encouraged to speak about their loss.

"It’s amazing, it’s just so like powerful and like you can just feel the energy from like everyone there and everyone just gets it," Anderson said. "You feel very loved by the people in just a matter of one week."

This year, the camps will run from Aug. 5 to 17 and some spots are still available. To apply, click here.
About 700 children attended Experience Camps in Maine, California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan last year. 
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