Helping Grieving Children Heal, One Step at a Time
Swimming, dancing and remembering their loved ones — these were some of the activities campers participated in at the 18th annual Stepping Stones camp, operated at no cost to campers by BJC Hospice.
The three-day-long bereavement camp is offered to children ages 6-12 years who have experienced the death of a family member. Professional staff and volunteers lead the camp, which offers a safe place to explore grief, anger and fear — balanced by plenty of fun.
This year, 53 children came together in August at Camp Wyman in Eureka, Mo., for team building, a carnival and outdoor games and of course s’mores. There were also therapeutic activities, such as making prayer flags, stepping stones and wish sticks, a memory gallery and a night time boat ceremony with candles.
"I am so incredibly grateful to our camp staff and volunteers,” says Andrea Tritinger, BJC Hospice bereavement specialist. “We had almost 50 high schoolers, college students, and adults who were out there with us for the entire weekend. They amaze me away every year with their energy, dedication to the program, and their willingness to give an entire weekend of their time to help others.
“When the campers arrived on Friday, some were excited but many were unsure, nervous, or even not happy to be there at all,” Tritinger says. “However, by the time they left on Sunday, I saw lots of smiles, hugs, and tears along with hearing many campers ask if they can come back next year.”
Campers share their own impressions of the camp:
“I loved making new friends and I wish we could stay at least 3 days longer!”
“I learned that I can calm down when I feel angry and sad at the same time.”
“I learned that taking deep breath helps when I feel sad.”
“I liked that I didn’t have to hold in my feelings at camp.”
“This camp is the best camp in the world!”
“I liked camp a lot and wish I could come back again.”