Camp helps children cope with lossOn Aug. 2, 2006, 13-year-old Brason Kappenman, died due to injuries sustained in an ATV accident near Ellendale, N.D. He loved the farm and everything about it especially when his cousins from Minneapolis came to visit, said his mother and Camp Release volunteer Julie Ness.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
On Aug. 2, 2006, 13-year-old Brason Kappenman, died due to injuries sustained in an ATV accident near Ellendale, N.D.
He loved the farm and everything about it especially when his cousins from Minneapolis came to visit, said his mother and Camp Release volunteer Julie Ness.
“I was very shocked and I couldn’t believe someone my age wasn’t here anymore,” said Megan Erickson, Kappenman’s first cousin, now a freshman from Apple Valley (Minn.) High School.
Megan’s mother, Judy Erickson, was given a brochure from Ness about Camp Release, a children’s grief camp put on by the Jamestown Area Grief Support Team. She decided her two children were going, she said.
“I was angry and sad and had a lot of emotions at once,” Megan Erickson said of the time when her cousin died.
Camp Release, a specially designed camp to help children cope with loss, was a large part in helping Megan find the road to a healthy grieving process, she said.
“At first I didn’t think I needed help, I thought I could do this on my own,” Megan said.
She said at first she didn’t want to go to the camp but afterward was strongly affected by it.
This year’s camp is from July 24 to 26 at Red Willow Bible Camp in Binford, N.D.
Camp Release has a number of activities designed to give children positive skills in coping and expressing themselves, said Wendy Hournbuckle, JAGST member and one of the founders of the camp.
“It’s a great way to support the kids who are grieving, because they go through a difficult time,” Hournbuckle said.
Some of the activities include a love and anger wall, classes in journaling, nature walks, a pool party, crafts and numerous opportunities to talk with camp volunteers and other children who are going through the same thing, said Carol Arnold JAGST president and Camp Release volunteer.
“The kids really enjoy the love and anger wall,” she said.
Arnold described the wall as big sheets of Sheetrock, with campers writing things they love on one side and writing things that make them angry on the other side. Campers then throw raw eggs at the anger side.
“It was really therapeutic and helped get our emotions out,” Erickson said.
Arnold said it can be a turning point for some campers and one year a camper made a complete turnaround going from withdrawn to becoming involved in the camp after the wall.
Hournbuckle got the idea for Camp Release while working at James-town Hospital Hospice, because other hospices across the country have similar camps, she said.
“The goal is to give the campers an opportunity to know that grief is a normal process and give them skills to better cope with grief,” Hournbuckle said.
Grief is an accumulative with children meaning they may take it with them for several years before properly coping with it, said Brenda Peterson, JAGST treasurer.
She said children oftentimes hide grief so they don’t upset their parents.
“(Megan) was hiding a lot of things maybe she didn’t realize she was hiding,” said Judy Erickson.
Erickson said the turnaround for her children to become healthy grievers didn’t happen overnight.
She said Megan started accepting her cousin’s death about nine months ago.
Now Megan wants to volunteer and help campers who are going through the same thing she did, even though the drive is six and a half hours, Megan Erickson said.
“The driving doesn’t matter to me, just as long as I can reach out and help somebody else,” Megan said.
The total cost for the camp is $100, but scholarships are available and no one will be turned away, said Peterson.
Hournbuckle hopes campers take some things with them after the experience.
“(I hope) that they leave there having a lighter heart and having better coping skills, things they can do to deal with their grief,” she said.
For more information call Wendy at 701-251-1466 or 701-320-8236 or call Eileen at 701-251-1280 or 701-269-4521. Wendy is also available via e-mail at email@example.com and Eileen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by e-mail at email@example.com