Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Camp Erin...Part 2

Two camp weekends have come and gone...and I'm sitting here now reflecting on every moment, every smile...and every friendship that was made.

Yesterday I was sitting in my chair thinking about the past weekend at Teen Camp and I couldn't help it...I started to cry. I think that I was at a point where I could finally let the wall down enough to let my own emotions start to flow. I didn't try to stop myself, I didn't tell myself how dumb it was to cry, or even question why I was crying. I just sat here and cried.

Looking back at the past weekend I can't help but think about all of the campers who chose to share their lives and their loved ones with the rest of the group. I had an amazing group of boys in my cabin, and two wonderful co-big buddies. We again had a wonderful support staff, and my CPP (Clinical Point Person) Clare, was amazing. She would just randomly check in and ask how I was. Then she would float off to help with things. She would always come at the right time, and it felt great knowing that I had someone there who was willing to support me if I needed it.

This year was a year of change for Camp Erin of King County. Not only did we move from Camp River Ranch to Camp Korey (a move that I think was for the best), but we also had a change in leadership. Lulu was an amazing lead for Teen Camp, and last year was her last year. This year we had a new leader, Emili, who brings so many wonderful things to the table. And being that they split the camps up into two weekends, they were able to have all three of the leads focusing on each camp. I think it helped tremendously.

Camp Korey has such amazing facilities, and their staff is equally amazing. We were all there for a purpose, the kids. And as much as we complimented the Camp Korey staff, they complimented us right back. They are used to holding week long camps, so a three day camp was new to them, as well as bereavement camp. And Devon, the director for Camp Korey, said she was amazed at how the kids showed up...shy and not sure of anything...and then they left with their big buddies and cabin mates for 30 minutes, came back and had already formed a bond.

This is something that happens at Camp Erin, we have such a short time with these kids, and just the nature of the camp helps to bond these campers with us and each other quickly. It's honestly an amazing thing to see, and one that we don't really think about until someone points it out. But she also said she was impressed at how much we all truly cared about each and every one of those campers. The amount of love and support that we as big buddies bring to the table is quite phenomenal. And I honestly am blessed to be a part of it.

In my room I had two campers that were the best kids, I know I'm biased. ;-) Someone asked me what my favorite part of the weekend was...I thought about it and said, "Those moments right before we fell asleep, each of us tucked nicely into our own bunks and we'd share parts of our stories." My campers opened up to me about the loved ones they lost, and they asked me about the loved ones I've lost. The love wasn't just coming from the big buddies...it was coming from the campers as well.

One of my campers was on the fence about coming to camp, and I asked him what he would say to another camper next year that was in the same position and not sure if he was wanting to come. He thought about it and said, "If you keep your mind open, you will come here and find out how amazing it really is." He hit the nail on the head.

This was my third year with Camp Erin and each year I'm blown away by the maturity of some of the campers. These kids are forced to grow up and face reality at such a young age, and Camp Erin gives them a place to feel safe while they process their grief as well as be a kid for a while.

I only had about 48 hours with these kids but they will always be a part of me, I'm not only a part of their grief journey, but they are a part of mine. Each of us is on a journey whether we realize it or not, and I believe that people are brought in to help us along the way. We never truly know if we help others, or make an impact. But I do know this...when you *try* to make an impact...it's never as successful as when you are just being you and walking alongside someone.

Thinking about my own life, the people who have tried to *fix* things for me are the ones that don't help. The ones who've made the biggest impact are the ones who don't even know what they are doing.

This past weekend I fished, played kick ball, ate, laughed, cried and most importantly...loved. It's hard not to fall in love with these kids when they open up their hearts to you. It's hard not to love these kids when they laugh with you and tease you and accept you into their worlds. It's hard not to hurt when you say goodbye to them at the end of the weekend. And it's even harder not to smile when you think about how truly blessed you are to have had them in your life for even 48 hours.

Camp Erin changes my life every single year. I learn so much about myself and my grief journey each time. I one day hope to be like some of my campers, where I'm willing to allow strangers to hear my story and learn from it as well as help me navigate it.

My heart is with each and every camper from Kids Camp and Teen Camp. Life has dealt them a tough hand, and the fact that they were at Camp Erin is a great step in their journey. Some of these campers I'll see again, possibly at camp next year or other events throughout the year. Others I'll never see again. I don't know if I made an impact on their life...but I sure as hell know they made an impact on mine.