5K supports program that helps grieving Baptist team members, among many others

This year’s event draws 500 runners

More than 500 people participated in this year’s Camp Good Grief 5K, whose proceeds benefit the bereavement camps for children, teens and adults. The camps are free for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one. Among the hundreds of people who have been helped by the camp are Baptist team members like David Garrison and his two children, Laura and Steven. In 2010, David suddenly and unexpectedly lost his wife of more than 20 years.

“At that moment our world kind of crumbled. I came back to work and immediately got an email about Camp Good Grief for kids and adults,” David said.

He was quickly able to enroll the children in Camp Good Grief.

“My wife passed away in May and they got Laura and Steven into Camp Good Grief for that summer. The kids started going there for counseling, and they really got into the Camp Good Grief family.”

Although it was a hard time for their family, David said his children enjoyed the camp and the activities it offered.

“They had an absolutely fabulous time, as good of a time as you can have in those circumstances. It really helped with the healing process.”

He believes the camp offered a place for Steven and Laura to deal with their loss, surrounded by people who understood what they were going through.

David Garrison and children“The whole experience helped them. They met friends going through the same things, and Laura still has a friend that she met there. Overall it’s been a wonderful healing experience.

“Without Camp Good Grief my kids would have definitely struggled. It was nice that they were able to be around other kids who were experiencing a loss themselves. They were able to connect with the other kids. And I think that without that connection their healing period would have been much longer.”

Angela Hamblen, director of the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, said it is very helpful for children going through the loss of a loved one to be able to relate to other children who are dealing with similar situations.

“This is part of what makes the Camp Good Grief environment work—bringing grieving children together and letting them process their grief together. Oftentimes grieving children don’t know another child their age who has had a parent or sibling die, so at Camp Good Grief they see that they are not the only one.”

David also credits the staff at Camp Good Grief for the progress his children were able to make in their grieving process.

“I just can’t say enough about all of the things that Angela and her staff have done for Laura and Steven. They just helped so much with all of their healing.”

He said the Camp Good Grief staff is amazing, but the help their family received from the Good Grief family went beyond the summer camp experience.

“Angela treats these kids as very special; she gives them hugs and gives them love, but that love goes way beyond just the camp. She’s always making sure that everything is right with the kids during this long-term process. She is just a wonderful person, and the whole staff there is great.”

“The entire center staff is committed to theses grieving children. This is more than a job to each of us,” Angela said. “We feel honored to do this work and to have the opportunity to walk a part of their grief journey with them.”

David said he appreciated the staff at the camp so much because they are experts at guiding the campers through the difficult process of healthy grieving.

“The healing process after a loss is a very difficult thing, and everyone goes through the process differently. This is one of the tools that can really help the healing process to go a lot smoother.”

Four years after the loss of his wife, David and his children are happy to have been a part of Camp Good Grief. His daughter Laura, now 14, has become a junior counselor at the camp with Team 1520, which was created by Camp Good Grief in 2014 to give former campers the opportunity to give back to other grieving children. He said she enjoys being able to give back to the program that meant so much to her during a difficult time. His son Steven wants to become a junior counselor as well, as soon as he’s old enough.

David said the most important thing people need to realize about Camp Good Grief is that every person can make a difference in the life of a child.

“This is funded by the Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, and a lot of the funding they get for Camp Good Grief comes from employees at Baptist. I didn’t give to Camp Good Grief until I had this loss and was able to see the amazing benefits of it. For anyone who has kids, or knows of kids who have had a loss, giving to this program is very fulfilling and well worth it.”

If you would like to make a contribution to a camp fund, please call 901-227-7121 or 800-895-4483, or you may go to www.bmhgiving.org, a secure site.