Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hands Together for Children Who Have Suffered a Loss

Our award winning camp for children who have experienced the death of a parent, Hands Together, Heart to Art, came to a close on July 29th. As I reflect back on our very successful 7th summer, I thought it might be nice to share a few of my magical camp moments:

5. Talent Shows. Our talent shows carried a Hollywood glamour theme this year. The range of talent was so broad: piano players, singers, dancers, improv skits, visual artists, and even joke tellers! Just about all of the campers participated in the talent show this year and encouraged each other to do something unique. One of the best things I saw this summer happened after a camper finished singing Katy Perry’s “Firework” song: another camper told her how good she sounded and she replied, “Thanks, I’m excited to hear your song too!” The support they showed for each other was awesome!

4. HTHTA JCs and Staff. The Hands Together staff is an amazing group of people who care very deeply about our campers and their experience at camp. Camp can be a pretty emotional place and our staff must be open and compassionate in addition to having a lot of experience working with kids. They are a constant source of inspiration for me in the summer and a fantastic group of people. And while there are a lot of tears shed at camp, there are a lot of laughs too! This year, our Junior Counselor program welcomed of 7 former campers to work hand-in-hand with our staff members. They were such a helpful group of young adults – and they made us very proud!

3. Balloon Launches. During the second week of each camp session, our campers are invited to write a note to their deceased patent(s). It is always an emotionally difficult day for the campers and staff, but it is also a tremendously powerful and cathartic event. Our campers were especially supportive of each other this year – campers were holding hands, hugging, and sticking together as we released the balloons into the sky. It was truly amazing to see how close to each other they became in such a short amount of time.

2. Final Shows. Our final shows are the culmination of the campers work and a celebration of their time with us. This year, we explored the theme “Why We Tell the Story”. Using fables as a guide, our campers explored why keeping memories and stories alive is so important. Their performance was uplifting, inspiring, touching, and very moving. Many of our campers have never experienced a class in theatre, music, or dance, but somehow by the end of the two week session even the most shy camper is on stage and wearing a huge smile. Our success is not in how well a song is sung or dance is perfected; our success is in those smiles!

1. Our campers. We are a truly unique camp for truly unique kids. Our campers participate in small group activities facilitated by professional healing counselors where they are able to express and share their feelings in a safe time and place. Simultaneously, campers develop self-expression, emotional growth, and communication though participating in performing arts classes. This year, our campers came from areas all over the city and surrounding suburbs. We enrolled 102 children in our 2011 camp. Due to the generous support of our sponsors and individual donors, we are able to keeping tuition low ($50 per child) but sometimes that’s not enough - we are proud to have the support to provide full scholarships for approximately 67% of the 2011 campers.

We will begin planning for our 8th summer very soon so please help us extend the healing power of creative play® by referring appropriate children to our program. If you know of any children who have suffered the loss of a parent and can benefit from this program, please share this information with that child’s guardian. Applications (in English and Spanish) and forms for 2012 will be available in March and can be downloaded online at

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