These are some of the stories of the nearly 100 children who attended this year’s Chameleon’s Journey, an overnight grief camp for children ages 7-16 who have lost someone important in their lives.
In its 14th year, Chameleon’s Journey is held annually at Camp Thunderbird in Lake Wylie, SC, and is offered by Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region.
I had the privilege of volunteering at this year’s camp, which took place the weekend of October 11th.
I am a changed person. To be a part of this was a true gift.
At camp, I interacted with and got to know some of the staff of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte – hospice nurses, grief counselors, therapists, and chaplains. It was like being in the company of angels. What they do truly matters and their life’s work is selfless devotion to others. Anyone affiliated with a hospice organization has a very special place in heaven. They are truly doing God’s work.
And then there’s the campers. Their stories are heart wrenching and as a volunteer, you want to run behind a bush every 5 minutes and cry your eyes out. It’s the loss of someone that the campers have in common and the reason they come. The kids find their “tribe” in peers who can relate and know what they are going through. Their courage and strength and perspective (and at ages as young as 7) is so inspirational.
The camp curriculum includes educational, artistic, creative, and physical activities. Campers have the opportunity to honor their loved ones, express and understand their grief, and meet new friends that help them know they are not alone.
Although the reason they are at camp is a sad one, they are still kids and there is a lot of laughter and fun and time to be kids. Lots of kids have been coming to camp for many, many years – first as campers and now as counselors.
Chameleon’s Journey is offered free of charge – thanks to a generous grant from the Junior League of Charlotte, and major donors including The Merancas Foundation, Speedway Children’s Charities, the Rotary Club of South Charlotte, Claire Bear’s Fund of the Foundation for the Carolinas, and many counselors and volunteers.
I’m very grateful for the experience and it’s something I’ll never forget.
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