The 26th year of Camp Pathways took place June 22-24 at Camp Joy Outdoor Education Center. Forecasted rain for the entire weekend led to impromptu planning of rainy day activities days before the start of camp. The worry turned to relief when 5-minute sprinkles fell from the sky several times on Friday, just enough to cool things off! A total of 56 campers, 49 buddies, 6 group leaders, 16 support staff, and 2 pet therapy volunteers participated in the weekend-long camp events designed to give children and teens a safe place to share their grief with peers with support from caring adults.
Campers made candles that included images and symbols of their loved ones, enjoyed What’s Popp’n! popcorn on Friday night and s’mores at the campfire on Saturday. Campers rated the art activities, swimming and the high ropes course as the highlights of the camp. Sleeping ranked as their least favorite activity.
Some support group activities included campers unpacking their feelings, making memory boxes, Grief Jenga, making memory bracelets, and decorating plastic masks that reflect the feelings shown to the world on one side and the feelings kept to yourself on the other. A graffiti wall invited teen campers to share thoughts throughout the weekend.
Inspired by Camp Joy’s theme for the summer of 2018 as “The Summer of Wish and Wonder,” campers, volunteers, and staff were asked to share a wish for Jonathan Haag, camp director for the past 13 years as he ends one chapter in his life and begins a new one. Haag is moving onto a new position in another state. Campers compiled their wishes into a book which was presented to him during a post-camp staff meeting. Jonathan was also recognized publically for his service at the Friday night campfire where Lisa Balster, Director of Care, Patient and Family Support Services, presented him with a walking stick, a fitting symbol for both his years leading the camp and the beginning of his new journey.
Open to children ages 7-17 who have lost a loved one, Camp Pathways is similar to other traditional summer camps, offering an array of traditional outdoor activities, bringing children and teens together to share memories, play, sing, learn and laugh. But Camp Pathways also brings together children who share an experience of loss and offers them the opportunity to grieve, memorialize their loved ones and support each other.