Mental Health

4th Annual Camp Fragile Hearts Hosted by Riverside Shore Hospice

November 12, 2016

A morning of heavy rain did not dampen the spirits of the Camp Fragile Hearts campers, counselors or volunteers.  Melanie Mason, Riverside Shore Hospice Bereavement Counselor explained, "We were fortunate that the weather improved throughout the day, and we ended with a spectacular sunset and a moving ceremony that made for a day of healing and new beginnings."

Camp Fragile Hearts was the annual culmination of a series of outreach events that support families coping with loss, whether from grave illnesses, death, divorce, foster placement, incarceration or deployment. The free camp was a one-day event that brought local kids together in a fun, safe environment where they could share their feelings of loss with others but also have a day filled with fun activities such as art, a petting zoo, games and zip lining.

The camp, which involved nearly 30 volunteers and trained counselors, was held on Saturday, October 1st in Jamesville at the YMCA Camp Silver Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. This was the fourth annual camp which was started by Hospice and Palliative Care of the Eastern Shore and is being continued by Riverside Shore Hospice. The camp was funded in part by corporate donations, including generous donations from Buchanan Subaru in Pocomoke, MD, the Northampton Sheriff's department and local Rotary Clubs.

"The day allowed kids to leave the hurt behind as well as help them understand they are not alone and others share feelings of loss and sadness too. It's such an important community outreach effort and our volunteers and staff benefit from the day nearly as much as do the children," commented Mason. "All of the time, effort, energy and love that goes into this day pays big dividends in making a difference in the life of a child. Our volunteers' generous hearts helping fragile hearts heal was really what it's all about."

Camp's first activity was a small-group discussion led by trained counselors. These sessions allowed the kids to talk about their grief in a safe environment, free from judgment and to build trust in their assigned "Big Buddies" - two adults assigned to each group.

The day progressed to age-appropriate arts and crafts, then to interacting with animals in a petting zoo, zip lining and climbing the Alpine Tower. Dinner included a presentation of photos from the day and then campers were recognized and received awards in the following categories:

  • Showed Care and Kindness for Others,
  • Looked out for Fellow Campers,
  • Willing to Stop and Try Again,
  • Not Afraid to Ask for Help,
  • Demonstrated Great Teamwork,
  • Willing to Push Through Your Fears, and
  • Showed Great Listening and Observation Skills.

A final ceremony on the Bay allowed the children to literally and figuratively release their feelings of sadness and grief using bio-degradable paper lanterns that floated away into the setting sun.

A parent of a child who recently lost a close grandparent and attended the camp commented, "My son was uncertain what to expect but truly enjoyed the day. He needed the opportunity to meet other children experiencing similar feelings and emotions. The counseling sessions allowed him to open up, and he loved the physical challenges of the day. I'm so appreciative of Hospice, and I hope others in similar situations take advantage of future camps. Our children really benefit from a day like this."

"This day of community outreach gives meaning to the Riverside Care Difference which is putting our patients at the heart of all we do," said Mason. "Hospice services and palliative care are so much more than simply the final chapter in a life. We focus on pain and symptom control, communication and coordination, emotional support and caregiver support. We provide patients with the best care possible in order to keep them safe, help heal them, treat them kindly and respect their wishes," continued Mason.

2017 camp applications can be obtained by calling Mason at 757-789-5000.