Camp Firefly to help grieving children, families

Holly Viers • Sep 2, 2019 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Grief is a difficult emotion for anyone to process, but it can be particularly challenging for young people.

That’s why Ballad Health Hospice is holding Camp Firefly, a free camp to help grieving children, teenagers and their families. The event will be held Sept. 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Warriors Path State Park, and registration is open through Sept. 4.

“Usually kids get overlooked in the grieving process, and this directly affects them and allows them to address their grief, but on their level with play, with fun,” said Anna Butler, a member of the Camp Firefly planning team and chaplain for Ballad Health Hospice. “We have a variety of activities that allows them to identify their emotions and then how to address and cope with their emotions.”

What should you expect?

The camp will include one-on-one and group sessions aimed at helping participants develop an age-appropriate understanding of death, form relationships with peers who have experienced similar losses, improve self-esteem, reduce feelings of isolation and strengthen coping skills.

Campers, who range in age from 4-17, will come together in age-divided groups to address their feelings of grief, celebrate their loved ones through memory-focused activities and learn healthy coping skills.

Lunch will be provided, with time for families to reconnect and relax. The camp will conclude with a memorial ceremony that includes a lighted lantern release, and children will be sent home with a book that helps them cope with grief on their own.

“One of the most common effects of trauma in childhood is that kids feel alienated,” Butler said, “and giving them a chance to realize they’re not alone in feeling some of the things they’ve felt … it’s so helpful to them so that they don’t feel that alienation.”

Who will lead?

Trained volunteers serve as camp buddies and accompany participants through activities led by professional social workers, counselors and nurses.

The camp is largely staffed by Ballad Health team members, and most supplies and resources have been provided by Morris-Baker Funeral Home, Camp Firefly’s lead sponsor.

“Grief in children has always been relevant to Morris-Baker,” said Preston McKee — president of Morris-Baker and owner of Kibbi, a Niswonger Children’s Hospital therapy dog that will be present at Camp Firefly — in a press release. “These members of our community are sometimes left out of healing rituals, so we like to do everything we can to give them the support they need.”

Kibbi and other therapy dogs will be on hand at each camp station for children who need one-on-one comfort or a few minutes to decompress.

Can families come?

Parents and guardians are encouraged to attend Camp Firefly with their children. Separate sessions are conducted to help adults understand and support children’s grieving processes, recognize signs of complicated grief, cope with their own grief and learn how to respond to children’s unique needs. A panel of experienced professionals will be available to answer questions.

“It can be just for kids if they want it to, but a lot of times families want to come because parents, it’s hard when they are grieving themselves to know how to A) take care of their own grief, and then B) help their kids with their grief,” Butler said. “So the adult sessions will help address those issues.”

To register or learn more about Camp Firefly, contact Ballad Health Hospice at (423) 431-6146 or visit www.balladhealth.org.