Here at david beahm design, we are huge proponents of giving back. Whether it is through donations of product, money, food, or time; David encourages our team to participate in service of our community. In the wedding world of diamonds, tulle, sugar flowers and joy – it is often far too easy to forget that while we are celebrating our multitude of blessings – those around us might be in a place of sadness and grief. To that end, this October, I participated in my first bereavement camp for children from the ages of 7 to 17 in Blairstown, New Jersey. I was completely impressed by the generosity of the volunteers and the openness of the children — all of whom have lost a primary care giver, parent, or sibling. The experience was so moving, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce our blog readers to the amazing organization that is Comfort Zone Camp.
CZC (as it is affectionately referred to by its campers and volunteers) not only has locations in New Jersey, but in Virginia, California, and Massachusetts as well. The CZC team works tirelessly to provide children with a fun and safe place to grieve in a rustic camp environment. Children from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds are invited to process their anguish with other campers who’ve experienced a similar loss. In an effort to make the services available to everyone – no family pays for a child’s participation, so donations of time and money are priceless to this not-for-profit. In the safe camp environment children are encouraged to have fun again. They are not automatically marked with a Scarlet “D” for death … and sometimes, for the first time in a long time, they feel like children again. Volunteers work as collective unit to create the camp bubble within which “Little” campers feel validation from their peers as well from their “Big Buddy” (a grown-up counterpart matched with each child camper). Bigs and Littles are connected at the hip during the weekend and experience the gamut of emotions from laughter to tears – together. Matches are made by gender, interests, and most importantly bereavement history. One young lady was paired with yours truly.
Over three days, my Little and I worked together through a series of icebreakers, physical activities, and group therapy sessions. These endeavors not only built trust and confidence between us, but also created a sense of community amongst the group as a whole. The highlight of the weekend took place at Saturday night’s bonfire. As a group, the entire camp gathered around the bonfire to be silly, sing camp songs, and make s’mores. At the conclusion of the evening, each person was asked to write a message to their lost loved one and toss it into the fire in their memory. The experience, while extremely powerful in and of itself, was further cemented for the children by Sunday’s memorial service and balloon release in which hundreds of colorful, helium-filled balloons are freed into the sky — each one carrying a private note written on delicate rice paper to those who have passed. As I watched my purple balloon float into a clear blue heaven I knew that somehow my message would reach the one I had lost years ago – my father, Eugene Matteucci.
I recently came across the following quote from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth “Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” CZC does exactly that – it gives its campers (and for that matter – all of us) an opportunity to express our sorrow. By speaking and writing the words of memorial, the participants mourn, but they also celebrate the lives lost and begin a journey of healing and acceptance for themselves.
If you wish to donate or volunteer please visit: www.comfortzonecamp.org – You’ll see me at future camps!