WARREN, NJ – Paige Snyder was 11 when her mother, Roseann, passed away from cancer at the young age of 48. When Paige heard about Camp Clover Bereavement Camp, she was hesitant but eager to find some healing after such sadness. The camp turned out to be a more inspiring and uplifting experience than she ever imagined.
The sharing circles and activities helped develop the coping skills she needed to process and express her grief. Paige made friends quickly using her artistic talents to make friendship bracelets for the other children, who also shared the experience of losing a loved one.
Paige returned as a camper for a second year, and then for the past two years has returned as a junior volunteer camp counselor. In her request to become a counselor, she wrote the following:
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“I understand what it is like to grieve the loss of someone. I also understand that not everyone grieves in the same manner … I personally, also believe that some people, children especially, do not always enjoy sharing their feelings, sometimes they just need a friend. I believe that I could be that friend.”
Paige and other dedicated volunteers provided friendship, camaraderie and fun activities to 57 children at this year’s camp, which was held on August 14-18 at Camp Riverbend in Warren, which each year donates the space for the program.
The camp, sponsored by Atlantic Home Care and Hospice, is now in its seventh year, is provided free of charge, including transportation, to children ages 7 through 15 who have experienced the death of a close relative or friend. The children were transported from five pickup locations by Atlantic Ambulance vehicles. Camp Clover offers traditional summer camp programs like swimming, sports, and arts and crafts, as well as educational and therapeutic activities designed to assist children in their grieving process. Activities are planned to foster coping skills that children can use throughout their lives.
Camp Clover is run by trained staff and volunteers and is funded strictly by donations. The camp provides free bus transportation and lunch.
The day’s activities begin with a “sharing circle” in which children share their memories and feelings about their loved one and learn they are not alone. Various grief-related activities occur during the day with art and music therapy, as well as traditional camp activities such as swimming and sports that help develop healthy coping skills and self-esteem.
The camp is staffed by grief counselors and as well as trained volunteers. Volunteers include several Atlantic Health System staff as well as former camp participants, like Paige.
The program culminates with a Family Night. and the children’s families are invited. There is a video of the week’s activities, a catered dinner and music, and a display of lit luminaries the children have made to honor their loved ones.
“Year after year, this program is a transformative experience for everyone involved, from our campers, to our volunteers and staff,” said Mary Pradilla, director of Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. “It is incredibly moving to see the children not only find inner strength and healing, but to see former campers like Paige share that strength as counselors.”
To refer a child, volunteer or donate, call 973-379-8444.