By Leah Sander
WARSAW — A free camp later this month in Warsaw will offer comfort to grieving children.
Camp Hope is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. July 19-23 at Warsaw Community Church, 1855 S. County Farm Road.
The camp is intended to offer support for children going into grades 1-7 who have lost a family member, friend or pet.
The camp is organized by Ryan’s Place of Goshen, a grief support organization for children, teens and families.
Ryan’s Place has hosted daylong Camp Hope events for five years, but this is the first weeklong camp that it’s ever offered.
“United (Way of Whitley and Kosciusko Counties’ President) Darren Bickel approached the Executive Director of Ryan’s Place Aileac Deegan to do a weeklong day camp,” said Camp Hope Warsaw Coordinator Cara Allebach.
“United Way was looking for a way to help children in Kosciusko County who had experienced grief and loss during the pandemic,” she continued. “(Bickel) knew that Ryan’s Place does great work in Elkhart County and wanted to bring their expertise to our area.”
United Way is covering all costs, so admission is free.
Activities will include art therapy through Spoonful of Imagination Art Studio and a drum circle with Nicole Williams.
Two fitness instructors, Erin Serafino and Denise Ritter, will lead campers in learning deep breathing and stretching techniques.
Also included will be games, read-alouds, videos and a therapy dog.
Allebach emphasized the importance of children getting therapy related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This need was evident before COVID, but is even more evident now,” she said. “Our children have experienced many losses too: the loss of friendships and connectedness during COVID school closures, the loss of learning and academics, the regression in their social and emotional development and perhaps the death of someone in their lives.”
“We want the children who attend Camp Hope to know that they are not alone in their grief and that many other children their age are grieving too,” she continued. “We want the children who attend to be able to share their stories and to begin to move toward hope and healing.”
Though the camp is based in Kosciusko County, children from outside the county can attend. Allebach said there are already kids signed up from South Whitley and Columbia City.
A free lunch will be provided during camp courtesy of Warsaw Community Schools’ Food Services. Warsaw Community Schools students also may receive transportation via the WCS Transportation Department.
To sign up, people should email Allebach at [email protected] or call the Ryan’s Place office at 574-535-1000. The deadline to register is Saturday, July 10, and reservations are first-come, first-served.
Volunteers are also needed. People can use the above contact information to learn more.