Smiles for Camp Erin

This week it’s time to prepare for grief camp and Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is getting ready for Camp Erin. The grief support specialists are putting together a Journey Bag for the 9 and 10-year-old campers. It’s an activity based on Native American tribes sending Braves out with things they may need in their pouches. The pouches contain objects and messages for the campers to take with them, sustain and support them as they journey back from camp and into the rest of their lives, with an absence of their loved one. 

The team was having trouble finding Laffy Taffy, an essential part of the kit. It’s there to remind people that coping with grief includes being able to laugh and enjoy life. After calling around to many different candy stores, someone asked, “What about QuikTrip?” Walking through the door, they found a huge bin of Laffy Taffy in many different flavors at a great price. Problem solved!

Sorting through all the colors and counting out the total number of Laffy Taffy packages needed for camp, one of the counselors was approached by an older lady and a child. They were just wondering what someone would do with all that Laffy Taffy. She explained that at grief camp this weekend, children and teens would be receiving counseling and support for the death of someone close to them, and it was important to remember that laughter is a great way to heal.

A few minutes later, the lady approached again, but this time with a $10 bill in her hand. She wanted to pay for the Laffy Taffy and refused to accept the change. She said we would surely have more expenses over the weekend and it was her pleasure to help the kids.

Providing grief support is an integral part of end of life care. For children and teens, it takes different approaches and highly trained specialists. Working with the Moyer Foundation and Solace House, Kansas City Hospice is able to provide Camp Erin with no charge to area youth. While some have experienced hospice, there are also many children and teens who have experienced sudden, unexpected deaths. Camp Erin is a great place to meet other youth in the same situation, to spend some times outdoors with fun activities, and to find new ways to work through grief.

It’s made possible by grants, donations of money and materials, the participation of many trained volunteers and the support of our community. While Laffy Taffy might seem like a small donation in the scheme of things, it’s something that will matter to the campers. It will give them a reminder of new coping skills and bring a smile to many faces. It makes a difference in their lives.

Learn more about talking to children and teens about illness and death.

Thank you to the kind lady who bought us candy, to the many donors who helped make Camp Erin possible, to our wonderful volunteers and our talented staff. Enjoy a wonderful weekend!

More about Journey Bags. So many have inquired, so here’s what’s in a Journey Bag:

There are times when I need courage to manage my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I may feel angry and want to roar. I can find healthy ways to express my anger.

  • The lion represents the courage that I will carry with me from Camp Erin.
  • I chose a lavender bud that represents the beauty in nature. I will remember to see the good in others, in myself, and in the world around me.
  • The heart I have reminds me that I have a heart that needs to be gently cared for by myself  and by others. The love that other people have for me will sustain me at times that I feel unlovable.
  • The stone I chose represents those who will stand solid with me in good times and hard times. That the friends I choose should be those who will help me and listen to me.
  • There are times when I need to be gentle like a butterfly, open to change and ability to see beyond the current situation to help myself transform.
  • The cotton ball reminds me that I need to take care of myself, both my physical self and my emotional self. That I need a soft place to land and to be able to express myself in kind ways.
  • The rope represents my need to hold on in the difficult times as I voyage through life.  The rope also reminds me that I am connected to many other people at Camp Erin and they want me to have a bright future.
  • This piece of Laffy Taffy is to remind me to not take myself so seriously all the time and to enjoy the fun times ahead as my loved one would want for me to enjoy the good life has to offer.
  • The Kiss is so I will always cherish the love  that I carry with me.

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