Camp helps youth heal following tragedies

Aaron Krause • Jul 28, 2014 at 11:53 PM

Sixteen-year-old Michael Huntley just lost his 71-year-old grandfather, Richard Kelble, to Stage 4 lung cancer.

His grandson said Kelble began smoking when he was 13 and had been a "very heavy smoker."

Huntley is a little too old to participate in Stein Hospice's Camp Good Grief, a summer program for 4- to 13-year-olds who've experienced a loss.

Still, the Edison High School junior decided to serve as a mentor to the younger children. They benefited by talking to someone in their age range who'd also experienced a tragedy.

Huntley said he benefited as well; it put his loss in perspective, he said. Among other children, he interacted with a 5-year-old girl who lost her mother and her sister.

Camp Good Grief provides grieving youngsters with a chance to express their feelings through a variety of ways, including crying. Huntley fought back tears as he recalled his grandfather was just put "in the ground."

Kelble died three days before his 72nd birthday.

While youngsters can feel free to let tears flow, the camp, held at Veterans Memorial Lake Park, provides other methods of healing.

Eight-year-old Alex Shuker used his artistic skills to express his feelings about the recent death of his father, Scott, who died in a car accident. He drew tear drops and wrote "I miss you so much," applying many "O's" to the word "so."

"He's really artistic," said Christa Bronner, a children's grief counselor at Stein Hospice.

Shuker said his last words to his father were "I love you, bye" and his father responded "I love you too, bye."

The young boy said among the activities he did with his father was catch frogs.

"I cried a little," he said, referring to the time he learned about his father's death.

Bronner said Shuker, a Pleasant Elementary third-grader, has been managing his feelings well.

One activity that helped him Wednesday was equine therapy. A couple of horses were on hand to help the children cope.

Horses "have a healing element," said rural New London resident Donna Hammann, who brought her horse, Diamond. Hammann described horses as "big and lovable gentle giants."

Activities the youngsters performed with the horses included an obstacle course, during which they led the animals around cones.

The children also dressed themselves and one of the horses in a costume.

Shuker dressed as a cowboy. He said his interaction with horses made him feel "calm and safe."

According to herdbyahorse.com, equine therapy offers an environment in which people can partner with a horse through a "supportive, non-confrontational approach.

"Sometimes it may be as simple as the participant sharing their feelings with an animal, which can be too difficult to share with others."

Herd by a Horse provides therapeutic services for individual adolescents and adults, as well as groups who are dealing with personal grown, communication concerns, anxiety, parenting issues or who are in recovery.

For more information about Camp Good Grief, call Stein Hospice at (419) 625-5269.

Recommended for You

    Norwalk Reflector Videos