Bright tie-dyed T-shirts, colorful art projects and special mementos filled an area at Lums Pond State Park last week as children came together for one common purpose: to honor loved ones lost and help heal their pain.  


    Bright tie-dyed T-shirts, colorful art projects and special mementos filled an area at Lums Pond State Park last week as children came together for one common purpose: to honor loved ones lost and help heal their pain.

    For 20 years, Delaware Hospice’s Camp New Hope, a four-day summer camp for children and teenagers who have lost a family member, has been helping kids get through the bereavement process while forming tight friendships along the way.

    The camp is part of Delaware Hospice’s year-round New Hope program, which helps children deal with loss of a loved one who was involved in hospice. While many of the campers come from the New Hope program, a majority come from the community, as the camp is open to all children and free of charge.

    Ashley Fox, 10, said she was excited to come to Camp New Hope because she knew she would meet other children who were going through similar experiences as she was. She lost her brother in September 2009.

    “It really helps you get through the grief,” she said. “It’s nice to know that if you have a bad day, there’s someone there to talk to who knows what you’re going through.”

    Fox said her favorite part about camp was when she made an origami balloon and put in the pond in memory of her brother.

    “It has been a really fun experience,” she said.

    Other activities the children took part in throughout the week included visiting with therapy dogs, painting, writing, paddle boat rides and hip-hop dancing.

    As camp came to a close June 25, counselors, parents and a record 48 campers gathered to commemorate the program’s 20th anniversary and remember loved ones during a special memorial ceremony, in which the kids showed off their crafts and decorated a tree for their loved ones.

    Earline Vann, New Hope Camp director, said the staff and volunteers always feel honored to work with the children.

    “We consider ourselves to be the teachers, but truly by the time it’s over, we are the ones that are being taught,” she said. “The children have opened up to us in a way that’s phenomenal.”

    Many of the counselors have first-hand experience with loss and were once New Hope campers themselves.

    Ariel Mutter, 20, first attended the camp when she was 16 after her grandfather passed away in 2005. This is her second summer counseling at the camp.

    “My experience here was amazing,” she said. “It teaches you a whole new way of grieving and talking about loss with other people.”

    Drew Biehl, a licensed clinical social worker with Delaware Hospice, said the goal of the camp is to normalize the children’s grief and show them what they’re feeling about the loss is natural.

    “They’re so insightful and thoughtful,” he said. “This allows them that opportunity to open up and feel what they want to feel.”

    To learn more about Camp New Hope, go to www.delawarehospice.org or call 800-838-9800.