Children prepare to release balloons with messages to their departed loved ones during the final ceremony of Lourdes Hospice Camp Robin in spring 2012. Camp Robin is a free day camp open to grieving children, teens and parents, helping to provide support and coping skills as people deal with the loss of loved ones.
WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Shannah Poindexter, community relations manager for Lourdes Homecare and Hospice, talks about a hand-painted quilt crafted by children during a Camp Robin project in 2008 while at Lourdes North Plaza on Monday. The day camp helps children cope with the loss of loved ones through socialization with other children in similar circumstances.
Suffering through the loss of a loved one can take its toll on anyone, but especially in children, the grieving process often begins with confusion, leaving parents or guardians the difficult task of helping them cope.
And though it can take time dealing with bereavement, a local hospital extends its arms to children and families during their time of need, offering emotional tools and support in a setting that develops inner strength.
The Lourdes Hospice Camp Robin will kick off its ninth year on April 13, providing families a free day camp where children can receive the hand-in-hand walk-through often necessary for understanding loss.
“Adults tell us over and over again that they are unsure how to talk to their children about the grief process,” said Shannah Poindexter, community relationship manager for Lourdes Homecare and Hospice.
“Some people think if the kid doesn’t say anything then they’re not thinking about it or may not know what they’re thinking at all, so it is hard to bring that up and we get the questions, ‘How do I talk with them?’ or ‘How do I bring this up?’ or ‘How do I answer them when they don’t understand where their dad has gone?’ We give those types of tools to parents and guardians.”
Geared toward the 4-17 age group — with a special 13-17 teenage program separate from other classes — the camp provides a social atmosphere that in itself can provide healing. Poindexter said the peer support kids receive by being around others in the same scenario help reinforce that the children aren’t alone in their grief.
The camp encourages participation in games, arts and crafts, broken down into stations that help to broach the child’s emotions. Activities like hand painting a quilt with messages for loved ones, or painting clay pots to plant memorial flowers, help children remember the person they lost.
“A lot of this is about having children in a comfortable surrounding with their own peers maybe without their parents hovering over them so they can open up in their own right to talk about the grief process or the person they lost,” Poindexter said.
The camp closes with an emotional balloon launch where children write messages to the person they lost and attach them to helium balloons to be symbolically released toward the heavens.
Camp Robin will be 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at the Heartland Worship Center in Paducah. Participants should register online at www.elourdes.com/hospice.asp by April 10. For more information, call 270-415-3636.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676 or follow @WCPinkston on Twitter.