Hello Fellow Readers, A week ago, I was readying for my first time volunteering at Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) held right next door in Hardwick, NJ. “Comfort Zone Camp is a nonprofit bereavement camp that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver,” CZC’s website describes. “The free camps include confidence-building programs and age-based support groups that break the emotional isolation grief often brings. Comfort Zone Camps are offered to children 7 to 17, and are held year-round across the Country.”
I’ll admit before the start of camp, I felt nervous, excited, and hopeful too that I could help make a difference, however small. The rules of no cell phones allowed for the weekend felt intimidating – imagine, no access for 48 hours! But I looked forward to the ‘disconnect’ and reconnecting to the child in me.
The experience was filled with fun, laughter, high-energy activities, and of course, heartfelt sharing of what I call the gorilla of grief that we all wrestle with in life. For children, well, it’s too early. The Comfort Zone Camp experience provides valuable tools to help. It was a magical transformation from nervousness when campers arrived, then an overwhelming sense of belonging, a community of support, and love. The Bubble is how experienced CZC campers describe it.
My group was named Flowers, and as a group, we created our part of the closing ceremony. We wrote tributes for our loved ones on the petals of a paper flower. As each child spoke, they taped the flower’s petals rooted in the pot of Comfort Zone Camp’s nourishing soil. In the end, we chanted, “Plant the seed. Plant, plant the seed. Bring rain. Bring, bring the rain. Bloom the flower. Bloom, bloom the flower.’” Then we threw out our hands in the air and yelled, “Flower Power!’” As we prepared our part of the closing ceremony, one child said, “it’s just like grief.”
At the end of camp, we gathered lakeside and released balloons with notes to our loved ones. It was magical. ‘Grieve. Heal. Grow’ is Comfort Zone’s slogan. We grew indeed.
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To learn about Comfort Zone Camp, visit their website http://www.comfortzonecamp.org/.