Photos courtesy of Amanda Caldwell Photography
Special to Iredell Free News
Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County’s Rainbow Kidz program welcomed nearly 70 children and teens to summer grief camp during the past two weeks.
Camp Rainbow is a grief camp held annually for children dealing with the loss of a loved one and is offered entirely at no cost. This was the largest camp in the 12 years it has been held at the First ARP Boy Scout Camp with elementary school-aged children attending June 13-16 followed by middle and high school students June 20-23.
“Every year, I work with the most amazing staff and volunteers at Camp Rainbow who continue to make a difference in the lives of our grieving children, and the last two weeks have been no different,” said Rainbow Kidz Director Leigh Ann Darty.
“The children have been so courageous, have made friends, and learned a lifetime of coping skills that they always carry with them.”
The camp is directed and facilitated by Darty and Meredith Fleming, along with the support of many dedicated volunteers.
Campers rotate in groups through memorial crafts, group time, and activities, all intending to teach healthy coping skills. Campers put personal notes to their special person in hand-sewn heart pillows, made anger art by splattering paint on canvases to express their emotions, decorated pots, planted flowers to take home, and more.
Special guests helped the children and teens heal through reading, jujitsu, dance, drumming, mindfulness, and equine therapy. All activities are facilitated with lessons of healthy coping skills in mind.
During the second week of camp, middle and high school students welcomed Statesville native and current NFL player Breon Borders, who inspired the campers with his incredible story of overcoming difficult situations and pushing forward to succeed.
Although challenging, group time can be some of the most healing times for campers. Campers often work through feelings of guilt and learn healthy ways to express their emotions. When working in her journal, one camper wrote to her mother: “One thing I want you to know about me now is that I’m ok’ish, trying to take it in, but sometimes it is like I can’t feel you.” She later wrote, “Thank you for being the best mother I could ask for.”
Parents and guardians often see changes in their grieving children within the first day of camp. One parent shared, “My daughter has come home excited and eager to talk about her grandmother. She comes home and teaches us about ‘healthy coping skills’ and her ‘toolbox.’ The program has been a blessing for our entire family.”
Each week is closed with a parent/guardian support group and then a memorial for all campers and their families. Campers hold up special pinwheels in memory of their loved ones.
“I continue to be amazed by the children and youth in this program, and Camp Rainbow is just another wonderful aspect of Rainbow Kidz. We are honored to be able to do this work,” said Mike Smith, president & CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County.
Rainbow Kidz depends on fundraising, grants, and community support to bring the program to children and families at no cost.
For more information about Camp Rainbow or the Rainbow Kidz Program, visit www.HOIC.org or call 704-873-4719.