An Inside Look at the #BestWeekEver: Day 5 of Camp!

[The following is part five of a five-part series of live-from-camp updates written in August 2023 by Experience Camps founder and CEO Sara Deren. We’re excited to share the camp experience with you.] <> It’s our last full day of camp. Everyone is moving just a little bit slower, as if that might delay our inevitable departure tomorrow. Or maybe everyone is just really tired. Some campers are getting more emotional — aware of their return to real life, where their environments are less predictable, adults are less entertaining, food is less abundant, and friends are less understanding. If only we could freeze time and keep them with us in this bubble of happiness and safety.

Boy sitting in hammock at grief camp
Collecting moments like fireflies When I was a kid, I would capture fireflies in a jar on summer nights. We would screw on the lid and then watch their little lights flash over and over. This is what I picture when I imagine our campers going home tomorrow and taking their experiences from the week with them. Each friend they’ve made, counselor they’ve met, and laugh they’ve shared, is like a firefly in the jar. I imagine those lights flashing in their memories throughout the year to remind them of the way they felt and the times we had at camp together. My hope is that those firefly lights provide them with a needed moment of comfort, and a reminder that there are people who care about them and are counting down the days until they’re back at camp again next summer.

Girls smiling and hugging each other at grief camp As the hours wound down, there was an urgency to make every minute count. The zipline was a highlight of the morning, along with the final sharing circle of the week during clinical period. Campers had an opportunity to reflect on their time at camp and how their grief has changed. They’ve become more comfortable since the first sharing circle on Wednesday, which allows new layers of their story to unfold. The afternoon had us rolling down hills, spinning on bats, and three-legged racing in the final College League event of the week. Coppin State emerged victorious on the girls’ side, and the University of Montana won the title on the boys’ side. Final campfire, final reflections Camp took on a respectful tone as we headed into the sacred space of the Final Campfire after dinner. Luminary bags designed with camper artwork and messages lined the path, and even the chattiest campers grew quiet as we filled the benches around the fire. One by one, campers were invited to light a candle and share something about the person for whom they were lighting it. Bunkmates stood shoulder-to-shoulder, comforting each other one more time, and holding the weight of their grief together. Luminary bag with grief thoughts Tomorrow morning, our campers will depart and we’ll close our firefly jars up tight to keep them with us throughout the year. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me this week. Writing these daily emails has been cathartic in a way that I didn’t expect by allowing me to reflect on the impact of our work. It was an honor to share that with you, and I am truly grateful for all that you — our friends and supporters — have shared with Experience Camps over the last 15 years to make it all possible. With a full heart, Sara

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