When my father died in 2014, I felt untethered. It was hard to conceive of a world without him - he was a big personality who was my inspiration and sounding board for my jokes, storytelling and cooking. I felt alone, surrounded by a world that kept moving on, even when I felt like everything had stopped.
Enter Experience Camps. A place where I didn't have to explain my sense of aloneness, disjointedness or loss. Experience Camps are nationally recognized free summer camps for grieving children, ages 9-17, who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling or caregiver. I started volunteering at California Experience as a bunk counselor in 2016 and haven't stopped since. It's a truly special place that gives grieving children experiences that will change their lives forever - not to mention giving the wider community of staff, volunteers and donors an incredible well of support and understanding all year long.
As you can see from the photos, a lot of wonderful madness occurs at camp - in particular, I had a kismet moment my first year volunteering when I donned an Elvis wig and sunglasses to host, along with my rubber chicken Lenny, a camper lip sync battle... and a CalEx legend was inadvertently born.
2020 has brought a year of hardship for all and grief for many. With nearly 5 million children in the US currently grieving the loss of a close family member, the need for camp is enormous. 1 in 5 children are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling or caregiver and over 1 million children have been directly impacted by a COVID-related death.* With grief support needed more than ever, ExCamps needs to come back bigger and better in 2021 to meet the anticipated increase in demand due to COVID-19. To make that happen, we need your help.
From November 16th - December 31th, we are running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Experience Camps. But this is no ordinary fundraising campaign. It’s also a way to share the stories of loss that so many of us have experienced. It’s a way to show grieving children that they are not alone. And to ensure that we can send as many grieving kids to camp in 2021 as possible.
We are looking to you, ExCamps supporters past and future, to join together to fill the funding gap created by COVID-19 and ensure that we can fund 1,200 campers to attend camp next summer. That’s a 33% increase from last year to help meet the demand we’re seeing for our programs.
You have the power to make a real impact in the lives of grieving children. And, truly, no donation amount is too small!! ;)
Some examples of what your help provides:
•$50 provides a camper's clinical activity supplies for the week
•$100 funds a bunk pizza party for 20 campers
•$250 provides a travel scholarship for a camper who otherwise could not afford to attend camp
•$500 staffs one of our clinicians who supports two bunk sof campers for a full week
•$750 provides s'mores for all 1200 campers
•$2500 provides one camper with a full year of ExCamps programming, including one week of camp, reunions and other year round support
Moment of JVN realness. I know it's been a tough year. Even if you are not in a position to donate financially right now, please help us by spreading the word about camp, reaching out to anyone you may know who is dealing with loss, and letting them know about camp - whether it's for grieving children or for grieving adults who may want to volunteer.
THANK YOU THANK YOU for clicking on the link and opening this page and reading TO THE END and for being someone in my life who is supportive and a good human and paying attention. I so appreciate it.
Here's to doing it #FTK (for the kids) and for making the "best week ever" possible.
*Source: COVID-19 and Grief
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Experience Camps operates free summer camp programs in 10 locations nationwide, and provides ongoing opportunities throughout the year for support, connection and community. We reframe the experience of grief and empower our campers to develop invaluable coping skills that enable them to move forward with their lives.
Since 2009, Experience Camps has transformed the lives of thousands of children by bringing light to the profound darkness of grief. We offer a community where kids can laugh, cry, play, create, honor the memory of the person who died or forget the grief that weighs them down. It's a home away from home. And just about everyone will tell you... "It's the best week of the year."