Camp New Hope, a four-day Delaware Hospice-sponsored day camp, helps children and teens ages 5-16 deal with the loss of a loved one with activities that promote the healing process. This year's theme was Super Heroes are Forever.
Hannah Roney,15, of Millsboro copes with losing her father every day.
"My dad got sick and died of liver failure in March of this year," she said. "It's a lot easier to be around other people who know what I'm going through. I think what has helped me the most is that I hear all the other kids' stories and then you realize that you are not alone. I've made four or five new friends here."
She helps her younger brother, Elijah, cope with the loss by helping him talk about his feelings.
"I try to show him that opening up and talking about it will help him," she said. "He used to keep his feelings in and not talk about it at all. Now he is starting to talk about it."
Camp New Hope allows children to share their grief with peers in a supportive environment. They are led through activities, games and sports activities by trained counselors and volunteers. Campers also enjoy fun activities, like a water slide, to learn how to enjoy life again after their loss.
Each day the counselors make a tunnel of cheer and love as the children exit the buses that bring them to Redden State Forest from around Sussex and Kent counties.
Since its beginning in 1991, more than 3,500 children and teens have been helped by the support of Camp New Hope.
The camp uses counselors, chaplains, nurses and funeral directors to answer questions they may have about grief and loss. They also learn that their many feelings of guilt, anger and sadness are normal, and they help them to cope.
The camp allows participants to express feelings through activities such as art projects, mementos, small-group discussions, equine-assisted therapy and a special presentation to honor loved ones.
Addie Nelson, a Lake Forest student, attended Camp New Hope last year as a camper after going through the grief of losing her father to colon cancer when she was 14, and now she helps the campers deal with their feelings.
"After my dad died I went back to school and all my friends came up to me and said: 'Addie we know how you feel, and what you're going through,' but they didn't. They hadn't lost a parent. Here the kids knew what I was going through, and they shared their stories with me, and I shared mine with them.
"That has helped me as a counselor because I thought about how I was helped and I try to apply that to helping the other children. Just seeing them smile and laugh again is great. I really enjoy being here and giving back the help that I received when I was here," she said.
For more information about Camp New Hope contact delawarehospice.org.