Community Voices

Camp Kangaroo offers healing for children who’ve lost loved ones

Camp Kangaroo’s Red Group campers, ages 10-11, and their counselors shared art, music and sessions in coping skills to encourage healing from the loss of a loved one.
Camp Kangaroo’s Red Group campers, ages 10-11, and their counselors shared art, music and sessions in coping skills to encourage healing from the loss of a loved one. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Community, friendship and involvement in music, art, writing and healing work were highlighted at the recent Camp Kangaroo, a day camp for children who have lost loved ones in the past two years.

The 41 children, ages 5-18, were able to attend the Jan. 13-14 camp free of charge thanks to the generous help of Seasons Hospice Foundation.

Camp K Miami 2018 Tree of Remembrance
Camp Kangaroo’s Red Group campers, ages 10-11, and their counselors made a large mural called ‘The Tree of Remembrance’ with their handprints as leaves. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

As a final project that integrated lessons learned over the weekend, the children created a large mural titled “The Tree of Remembrance,” with their handprints as leaves.

“The whole point of camp is to foster a sense of community and friendship between these children with similar experiences and losses so no one feels they have to go through the grief journey alone,” Joseph Goelz, director of supportive care for Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Southern Florida, said in an email.

“We often have kids asking if they can exchange phone numbers/emails with other kids and our answer is YES! When these children first arrive, they are often quiet and apprehensive but usually by day two they are happy, smiling and sharing their feelings with others. In many cases, it is easier for the children to talk to one another about their grief and we encourage it. This year, we saw an overall positive movement forward for all the campers,” he said.

The campers were separated into five groups based on their ages and developmental levels, but they joined in to create a camp song with music therapists and the mural. Both creative projects represent “the culmination of the coping skills acquired and grief work completed over the course of two very intense days,” Goelz said.

“We encourage the children to lean on our counselors and lean on each other for support. Though their experiences differ in how [something] happened/who died, the children feel comfort and are able to open up knowing they are in a community of like-minded individuals who all have been through the hurt and struggle that they have been through.”

The kids did all the “normal” activities that you would expect at camp — singing, arts and crafts, games — but in all of that there was a dedicated curriculum developed to encourage healing and work through the tasks of grieving. Break time included kayaking and boating with Shake A Leg in Coconut Grove, the site for Camp Kangaroo. They visited Vizcaya and Pelican Harbor.

“We did have some repeat campers from last year and it was incredible to see the growth and healing that was evident this year as compared to their initial experience with camp last year,” Goelz said. Two sisters who returned, he said, were asked by their mother why they would go to the camp again since they had already been and they replied, “Mom, this is not just going to have fun. This is hard work that we still need to do.”

Every returning child has an opportunity to share what they’ve learned over the past year with the new campers.

“Many of these campers still need support. Grief work takes time and can often be a long process. But through this painstaking work, most campers are also able to give wisdom and tips to other children who are still in the beginning stages of the process,” Goelz said.

Parents and caregivers also grieving were offered an entire day of workshops. With the children they participated in a drum circle. They also spent time journaling that led to a process-oriented and solution-focused group session.

A number of campers, who will age out this year after turning 18, said they want to come back next year to volunteer because the program has helped that much in their grieving process.

“That’s another seed that we plant — some of them have become so engaged and have mastered how to deal with their own grief and loss experience that they want to help the next generation,” Goelz said. “That is exactly what Camp K is meant to accomplish. They are not only receiving healing themselves but also developing tools to help future generations.”

To learn how to sponsor a camper, become a volunteer, and discover healing tools for grief visit http://hrld.us/2DeWiel.

Take a Tour of Kitchens

Foodies, home design enthusiasts, architects, and admirers of kitchens will want to sign up for the ninth annual Tour of Kitchens hosted by the Coral Gables Community Foundation and INFINITI of Coral Gables.

“Tourists” will be inspired as they visit some of the most exquisite private residence kitchens, indulge in gourmet samples and desserts from the City Beautiful’s restaurants, and shop home goods from local merchants.

Registration is from 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 3, with breakfast at 2701 S. LeJeune Rd. Guests will check in and meet bestselling author and food consultant Linda Gassenheimer. They will then proceed at their own pace on a self-guided tour of the highlighted kitchens.

Tickets are $60 per person and proceeds benefit the Coral Gables Community Foundation and the Culinary Arts Fund, which provides support and scholarships for the Culinary Arts Program at Coral Gables Senior High School.

Foundation Board member Venny Torre is serving as chair of the tour for the third consecutive year.

For tickets, and to see the featured restaurants and merchants, visit http://hrld.us/2DjjcBv. Call the Coral Gables Community Foundation at 305-446-9670 for sponsorship details.

The tour finishes from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, 4119 Ponce de Leon Blvd., with champagne, coffee, a silent auction, and desserts.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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