The only word that comes to mind right now is “Wow”! I just came back from spending a weekend volunteering at Camp Erin, which is a bereavement camp for kids. It was the most powerful, emotional and fulfilling weekend I have ever had in my 37 years on this earth.
Last October, I was reading the paper and read an article about Jamie Moyer, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. I think the Phillies were in the playoffs and the article was about Jamie and his long career, but it was mainly about his foundation and Camp Erin. He and his wife started this camp back in 2000 and it has grown leaps and bounds since then. I was struck by their philinthropic work to start Camp Erin. We hear so often about professional atheletes and the “bad seeds” who get caught for drunk driving, or dog fighting or gun violations, etc. What we fail to hear more about is the wonderful work that professional atheletes do.
This article for some reason struck a chord in me. I have never in my life had anyone close to me die. Don’t get me wrong, I have been surrounded by death, but no one immediate to my life. So, why this particular camp resonated with me, I don’t know. I do know that I had been wanting to volunteer for sometime, in some way, shape or form, but never found a good fit for me and my hectic work schedule. I went online to see if there was an Arizona chapter to Camp Erin, and there was. I filled out the volunteer application and the wheels started turning.
I went to the orientation at Stepping Stones of Hope, the Arizona chapter of Camp Erin, and was immediately “in”! The organization was so laid back and understood volunteer’s other commitments and don’t ask you to dedicate 10 hours a month. They simply ask that you give whatever time you can, whenever you can. Perfect for me since I am on the road a lot with my job, I never know when I’m in town or when I’m out of town.
So, this weekend was my first Camp Erin and it was so amazing. My group was made up of three teenage kids, who had all lost a parent within the past 4 months. They were guarded, hurt, shy, uneasy and in all honesty didn’t really want to be there. I’m sure their parents made them come to this camp, but they all left with something that they didn’t when they came. They left with hope. They left with a sense of understanding. They left with knowing that other people are going through the same thing.
The weekend consists of activities that are meant to help the kids deal with and talk about the deaths. I don’t know if you have ever tried to get a 14 year old boy to talk about the death of his father, but it’s pretty tough. But, once they break through, it’s a catharsis. I could write a book on my experience with Camp Erin and all the wonderful people I met, but that is not my goal. My goal is to stress again to get involved. Volunteer your time. It was one weekend of my life and I may have gotten more out of it then the campers. Life doesn’t evolve in a bubble. We need support and love in our lives to grow and aspire. Give yourself to others, in anyway you can.