The loss of a loved one can be a heavy burden to carry. Especially for children who sometimes don’t handle the grieving process as well as adults.
Camp Emily, facilitated by LB Homes, is a free area day camp held each year for youth ages 7-18 who have experienced the death of someone they loved will be coming up soon.
Elizabeth Pederson, who works at PioneerCare in Fergus Falls, attended the camp with her niece after losing her mother in 2021.
“Prior to my position at PioneerCare, I actually worked for LB Homes doing hospice and homecare. So I was already familiar with Camp Emily through them. It had been a little over a year in March of 2021, when my mother died at a very young age from ovarian cancer. She was only 60. We were just very close. She was my best friend and it was just a huge significant loss for myself and my family. So I just felt that attending Camp Emily, especially with my 7 year old niece, who my mother helped raise. I just felt that she would really benefit,” said Pederson.
The beginning of Camp Emily was as special and unique as the girl who inspired the camp and remains its namesake. LB Homes said that in honor of Emily Johnson’s memory, Camp Emily was developed in 2007 to fill the need for bereavement services that are specifically designed for children.
“It was nice to be able to sit in a group and share how much or how little you would want to with folks that have experienced significant losses in their lives. To just be able to support each other, and just listen basically. It was just a very good experience for my niece and I. I left it feeling very much like it fulfilled my expectations. I like that it was in a church setting,” said Pederson.
Camp Emily offers numerous age-appropriate activities, discussions and breakout sessions are provided, along with meal breaks. All groups are facilitated by professionals trained in grief.
“They broke us into groups. They had age appropriate groups. I think they had two different groups for children. There were volunteers then that took the kids and went off and did age appropriate activities with them. Talking about the loved one, doing crafts. I think I did a memory box type project. While the adults went off into little groups and that’s where we kind of a turn and told our story and were able to share our experiences. To support each other,” said Pederson.
Pederson said herself and her niece found it so beneficial that she wanted to go again this year.
“My niece just absolutely loved it. In fact, she just asked me if we were going again this year. It was just a really good experience for me in regards to the healing process. I just felt like it would be a good stepping stone. It was a really good experience for me. I think sometimes too, sharing in a group of people that you don’t really know and experiencing the same type of feelings and loss as well. It was various different losses from grandparents to children to parents, it just felt really good and something that I really needed at the time,” said Pederson.
Terry Beck, Bereavement Social Worker, LB Hospice, one of the facilitators of the annual camp said the camp is an outlet for the grief that young children feel.
“Grief is a journey, and everyone has their own path. Camp Emily provides an outlet for children and families to process their grief. The age-appropriate activities help with healing and shows them they are not alone,” said Beck.
Parents or guardians are asked to attend and participate in the daylong event. Thanks to many generous donors and sponsors, there is no charge to participate in Camp Emily. Those newly bereaved, as well as those who have been on the path of grief for some time, are welcome.
The annual Camp Emily will be offered by LB Homes, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 8, at Good Shepherd Church located at 515 Western Avenue.
To register call 218-998-1400 or online at LBHomes.org/campemily. Beck stated that space is limited, so early registration is requested. The deadline for registration is Oct. 1.