During Camp Caterpillar, children will have a chance to play games and share their feelings about losing a loved one. (Wellmont photo)
As children grow and mature, they feel love and kindness from family members and the wonder of other special relationships.
But for some children, this time in their lives includes their first experience with the death of a loved one. It can unleash powerful emotions that may be challenging to understand or resolve.
Wellmont Hospice understands how death can impact children significantly and has for many years run a special event to help these children and their families through this difficult time. Camp Caterpillar, a free daylong nurturing environment for children, is geared to help them better understand this change and make a transition while keeping their loved one in their heart.
This year's camp will be held Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a new location — Stickley Farms, 550 Beaver Creek Road. The camp is open to children from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and their family members.
"Every child receives the gift of love during their relationship with someone special," said Jackie Everett, clinical leader of Wellmont Hospice. "When that person is gone, it is a significant change that might be hard for a child to handle.
"Camp Caterpillar is designed to help children, through a mixture of fun and conversation, further the healing process and empower them to pursue the future with confidence that the love they felt can always remain with them."
Sessions for children will touch on feelings related to grief, methods to cope with death and ways to honor memories of deceased loved ones. Children also grow from interactive activities, such as games, crafts, face painting and an inflatable obstacle course.
Adults who participate in Camp Caterpillar benefit by learning more about a child's grief and ways they can assist in the recovery. By participating, adults have the opportunity to learn more about their own emotions associated with a loved one's death and how they can appropriately respond to a child's needs.
"A parent or other adult who is experiencing emotional times can learn to effectively address their grief and serve as a role model for children," Everett said. "A child can appreciate the feelings an adult is experiencing while still looking for guidance on how to address them."
Each child will be paired with a community volunteer who will serve as a buddy for the day. Participants include
Wellmont Health System staff, church members, and high school and college students, who receive helpful training.
Anyone interested in registering a child or participating as a volunteer should call Wellmont Hospice at (423) 844-5252. Pre-registration is preferred.