SALISBURY – Camp Safe Harbor, a bereavement day camp held at Salisbury University for children ages 6 to 12, became a safe and loving place last week for children to heal and open up about their loss.
Coastal Hospice staff and volunteers, as well as staff and students from SU’s Social Work Department, worked together to make the fourth annual camp a successful program. Counselors experienced in grief support helped the children work through the loss of a parent, grandparent, sibling, or loved one. Fun activities such as video making, support circles, poetry, art, and sports activities helped each child heal in their own unique way.
Rose O’Neill of Salisbury sent her three children to Camp Safe Harbor after she heard about it in the Coastal Hospice newsletter.
“I’ve dealt with Coastal Hospice both personally and professionally and have had an outstanding experience,” O’Neill said. “My kids have done great, I felt like they could really use the additional support from people who aren’t emotionally attached to the loss. They greatly enjoyed it. I think they’ve gotten tips and help with dealing with the loss.”
Camp organizers from both Coastal Hospice and Salisbury University praised the benefits of the camp and the partnership between the two organizations.
“Children who have lost someone close to them grieve in a very different way from adults,” said Sharon Hutchison, manager for Spiritual Care Services at Coastal Hospice and an organizer of the event. “They often find it harder to express their feelings. At Camp Safe Harbor, by joining other children who have experienced a similar loss, we saw the children work at dealing with their grief, as they were able to talk about it rather than hold it inside.”
Dr. Kimberly Van Vulpen, assistant professor of social work at the university, said she continues to be inspired by the collaborative team running the camp and by the strength and resilience of the children.
“The connections that are made between the children and all the camp staff are what make Camp Safe Harbor so helpful,” Van Vulpen said. “The children arrive each day to camp, share, have lots of fun, and know that everyone there understands a bit of their story. They no longer have to feel different.”
Camp Safe Harbor will be available again for children in June 2019.