Camp Forget Me Not gives kids healthy tools for expressing the sadness of loss
Nine local children spent the day Wednesday doing things they might do at any summer day camp. There were lots of crafts, activities, playing, and laughter.
Wednesday’s camp provided them an outlet for more than just their creativity and their energy. It gave them an outlet for their grief.
Camp Forget Me Not — a grief camp for children — was held Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church in Warren. The camp is for children ages 7 to 17 who have suffered the death of a family member or friend. It is sponsored by the Schorman Center, Hospice of Warren County.
The activity schedule is much like any camp, filled with arts, crafts, activities and time for physical activity. The children who attend have all experienced loss of someone close to them. Volunteer counselors spend the day guiding the varied activities and giving the children the opportunity to remember those they lost and celebrate those memories.
The items the children create during camp are intended to not only give them a way to remember someone they lost but to take home and remember their experience at camp. They created beaded lanyards, picture frames, and memory plates that were baked in the oven and meant to last forever.
Ellen Scalise served as a grief counselor at the camp. As the children started to gather up a variety of colored permanent markers to decorate their large white plates, Scalise offered some advice.
“You want to put memories on there. It can be whatever you want,” she said. One child asked if they could write “I love mommy?”
“Of course,” she replied.
Some of the children chose to practice their design on paper first. Others jumped right in and started coloring the plate.
As they started coloring the plates Scalise told them to “think about a memory you never want to forget.”
More than one child incorporated a rainbow into their design. Those who chose to write a message made it personal.
“I love Uncle Nick” was the theme of one plate. Another plate dedicated to Grandma Lucy included poetry: “Roses are red. Violets are blue. You are always in my heart no matter how far you are.”
Once the plates were baked and other activities done, the day concluded with a dove balloon release. In the past, the camp has released real doves at the end of the day. The doves have a homing instinct and simply fly off and return home. No doves were available this year so dove-shaped balloons were substituted.
The balloons were biodegradable. The challenge was finding helium to fill them due to a global helium shortage. Camp organizers hope to have real doves again next year.