Special to Iredell Free News
The children who attended this year’s Camp Rainbow were young but none had any difficulty when asked to name the elephant in the room, the thing people don’t want to talk about: Death.
The camp, held last week by Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County’s Rainbow Kidz Pediatric Grief Program, served 30 students from across Iredell County who have suffered the recent loss of a loved one. It is designed to help children learn healthy coping skills and understand that it’s okay to talk about their special person and that person’s death.
“The children who attended camp this year were nothing short of extraordinary. These children have been through tragic losses and showed great courage in the face of adversity,” said Rainbow Kidz Counselor Meredith Fleming. “We feel honored to be able to support them on their grief journey especially during this difficult time in our world today.”
In compliance with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for camps, Camp Rainbow was limited to just 15 students in a morning elementary session, and 15 in a middle school afternoon session. All activities, which included group counseling sessions and stress-relievers like Yoga and Mixxed Fit, were held outdoors and children were required to wear masks when they were not able to be six feet apart.
“We were so proud of our Rainbow Kidz, who have faced such devastating losses and are coping with their grief in the midst of the pandemic,” said Rainbow Kidz Director Leigh Ann Darty. “We were able to hold camp in a safe and effective way and provide essential support to these grieving children.”
More than 60 percent of the children served by Camp Rainbow this year had lost a parent or sibling, and 33 percent had multiple losses. In cases where the loss was an extended family member, many had served as the guardian or primary caregiver for the child. Nearly half of the deaths were sudden and unexpected.
“My heart swelled when my son told me people can feel more than one emotion and they don’t always show how they are feeling. He explained that you have to ask them and talk to people about how you are feeling. This is a huge breakthrough for my child,” one parent shared in a post-camp survey.
“Loss of a parent at a young age is very difficult … thank you for the TLC, tools and connections you’ve provided for my daughter,” another parent wrote.
Camp Rainbow uses a mix of therapeutic and fun activities throughout the week to help children learn vital skills and bond with others who have had similar losses. This year’s special guests included Mixxed Fit instructor Shirelle Currence, magician Andy Lackey, librarian Carole Dennis, yoga instructor Jennifer Froyd and Karate instructor Jason Allen.
The Rainbow Kidz program is part of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County’s bereavement services. The program serves children across Iredell County through in-school grief counseling groups, individual sessions, Camp Rainbow, groups at the Boys & Girls Club and a holiday gathering. To learn more, visit www.HOIC.org.