A Ladner mom is looking to get the word out about Camp Kerry.
Naadia Clayton and her kids, Ali and Josh, have lost a string of loved ones in what has understatedly been a tough few years.
Clayton's husband Dan died suddenly in 2008, her mom died of cancer in 2009, her sister-in-law died in 2011 and her brother Phil died earlier this year.
The Camp Kerry Society, a charity with an office based in Burnaby, which specializes in bereavement support and care for young families, has been a big help, said Clayton.
This will be the fifth year the Claytons have gone on a Camp Kerry retreat.
"It's been really, really great for us," she said, adding the family has met lots of great people through the program, which she found out about through the Delta Hospice Society.
It will be held at Zajac Ranch in Mission over four days in September. Grief counseling is available, families can connect with others going through a similar experience and take part in various camp activities.
Besides the fall retreat, the Camp Kerry Society offers year-round family grief support groups, special events for families connected through the Camp Kerry community and education workshops. Camp Kerry founder and executive director Dr. Heather Mohan got the initiative started after a young family she was working with as a bereavement co-ordinator at Lions Gate Hospital left money for Mohan's bereavement program.
"I felt it would be something really special," she said.
Mohan, who now works at the Delta Hospice Society, said she felt it could give people a lot of benefit in a short period of time outside a traditional therapy setting and that during her time as camp counselor as a teenager she always saw the power of what it was like for people to get away and have a bonding experience.
She said it's especially important for young families to be able to connect to other young families that are grieving, but also raising kids on their own all of a sudden.
"Only those people understand each other's experience," she said, adding that grief is a long-term process.
While the number of families attending the regular camp has grown (from 11 in 2007 to likely 25 this year), part of the vision was to also create some intensive retreats for a smaller group of families, Mohan explains.
The Claytons were able to go on one of those last month, spending eight days in Maui.
"It was a wonderful experience. I can't express to you what a great time we had. It was phenomenal," said Clayton.
Two other families with similaraged kids also attended, she said, noting activities included surfing, snorkeling, hiking, outrigger canoeing and counseling.
Families don't pay to take part in Camp Kerry, which has all of its programs supported by donations.
"We've met so many wonderful people. They're part of this big community of, I guess you would say, a community of hope and healing," Mohan said. "That's kind of how l look at it."
For more on Camp Kerry visit www.campkerry.org.
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