When Baptist digital media specialist Jerry Williams volunteered as a “buddy” at Camp Good Grief, he knew he would lend support to a child in mourning. But what he didn’t know is just how much the experience would affect him, as well.
Camp Good Grief is a bereavement camp where children and teenagers who have lost loved ones can come together for companionship, play and therapy. Each camper is paired with a volunteer buddy. Jerry’s camper had lost both his father and grandmother within a short time.
“Even though he was dealing with grief, his display of strength took me by surprise,” said Jerry. “He inspired me every day.”
Campers have their choice of daily activities. One that stood out to Jerry was when his camper built a dreamcatcher “to catch all the good dreams he had of his lost loved ones,” he said. “It is just an example of how powerful the experience was. Before I volunteered, I expected crying and sadness, but when I got there, I saw kids having fun and being happy. Camp Good Grief is a great way for these children to let go of their grief and realize they are not alone in what they feel.”
There’s a lesson for everyone, says Jerry. “So many times, we go through something and think we are the only one, but in reality, there’s always someone else feeling the same thing. Camp Good Grief is awesome because it helps children smile through the sad times.”
His favorite part of Camp Good Grief was on the last day, when each camper wrote letters to those he or she had lost and tied them to a balloon, which was then released into the sky. “Even through that, my camper smiled,” he said.
Jerry has stayed in contact with his camper and plans to volunteer again. “If we each could give of our time and support one another, the world would definitely be better,” he said. “Lend an ear, a hug or an encouraging word—it makes such a difference.”
On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, your donation to the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation will help send a child to Camp Good Grief. Click here to learn how you can support this cause.