Camp Kangaroo Helps Kids Cope With Loss
About 40 children ages five to seventeen are attending Camp Kangaroo at MOSI in Tampa this weekend. The free bereavement camp provides kids with a safe and supportive space to help them learn how to cope with the loss of a loved one.
“Building community is our first order of business,” said Kirby Kelleher, Director of Patient Experience at AccentCare in Tampa. “Then, we talk about emotions, how they’re feeling now, how they felt before, what they can do to cope with big emotions like anger, sadness, and then we also focus on making memories.”
Kelleher also serves as a Camp Director.
Counselors encourage kids to share emotions while participating in activities organizers describe as psychotherapy and creative arts therapy-based.
One example of a session shows kids decorating an ornament in honor of their loved one to hang on the camp wish tree.
Eleven-year-old Dominique Wright is at Camp Kangaroo as she grieves the recent loss of her grandmother.
“She didn’t want us to cry, she wanted us to stay happy and even though she did cry, she said I will be fine and once it’s time to take my rest, I will,” Wright said of her grandmother who passed away in October. “So, I’m making a blue star because blue was her favorite color.”
Among other art therapy projects, Camp Kangaroo participants paint masks while talking about emotions. Kids also create music in memory of their lost loved one.
“I hope they leave with some new friends that they can call on for support when they need it,” said Kelleher. “And I hope that they put some tools in their toolkit so that when they are having a tough day, they can remember what they learned at camp and they can have something that grounds them and reminds them that they’re not alone.”
Organizers say Camp Kangaroo is led by professionals and volunteers from AccentCare Hospice.