April: National Volunteer Month

To celebrate the end of National Volunteer Month, we wanted to highlight several volunteers who have been such a beautiful piece of the Camp HOPE family. Within each story you will hear sadness, sorrow, and feelings of helplessness. You will also hear happiness, fun, and a sense of interconnectedness. And that's grief.

These stories are a reminder that it is okay to be goofy and joyful even on our toughest days.

Why did you choose to come volunteer at camp?

What keeps you coming back?

Share a story of an experience that humbled you.

Volunteer Highlight: Alexis

I came to Camp HOPE because I lost my dad to gun violence when I was seven years old, and I wanted to surround myself with other people who would understand me.

I keep coming back to Camp because it feels like home. It’s a place where I feel safe, and I can be my silly and energetic self with loving people.

Me and a camper lost our dads at the same age. We were casually talking about random things, and then he said “I have the same name as my dad.” And with excitement I said “I DO TOO!” We both smiled so hard because of that connection. It’s the things that seem so little, that can mean the world to a kid and also to an adult. We don’t want to feel alone, and Camp Hope strives to make it so none of us have that feeling.

Volunteer Highlight: Chaé

My first camp was when I was a sophomore in college. One of my social work professors, Cyndi was talking about camp and it sounded like an amazing place and one that I wanted to be a part of.

Camp has been a safe place for not only me but so many others. I know my feelings and emotions are validated and I can be myself at camp. Since my first camp I have lost many others in my life and each time I return to camp I know I am welcomed with open arms, a friendly smile and unconditional love. I have met lifelong friends since coming to camp and it truly is like having a second family.

Its hard to pick one story that has humbled me in my years as a counselor at camp. Each camp I get to be a very small part of each campers journey in how they will move forward and navigate the ongoing grief and loss that will continue throughout their lives. I continue to admire each and every child and adolescent who has the courage to come to camp and talk so openly about the loved ones that they have lost. Seeing them make connections with one another and realizing that they are not alone in this world of loss is truly one of the best parts of each camp.

Volunteer Highlight: Lilia

I came to Camp Hope when I was 13 years old after my dad passed away from liver cancer. To be honest, I was forced to come to camp by my mother. In the end camp changed my life. That's the reason I keep coming back. I know what it's like to feel like no one understands what we're going through and camp helps you realize that you are not alone in your grief, a part of you feels normal again. Camp makes you feel like your grief isn't what makes you different but is a connection to others like you. I got to be a counselor to an amazing group of girls who the majority of them did not want to be at camp. In the end they were able to identify so much in each other, along with my co-counselors, that it ended up being an amazing weekend for our cabin and a bond that has lasted.

Volunteer Highlight: Chad

I had 6 loses within a year and a half of each other 3 died by suicide, 1 OD, 1 drunk driving, and one unexpected with an enlarged heart and passed away in his sleep. This was the worse year of my life and I became numb. I didn't know how to react, what to do, what grief was, or what I was experiencing. I was very lost from that moment on in my life. About 6 years later one of my best friend died by suicide. I had known about his thoughts of suicide for awhile. I knew his family was supported him and getting him help. I thought I had him talked off that ledge and carried a lot of guilt because of this. I wish I could have said or done something to prevent it from happening. At his funeral I found myself observing his parents and his children. They had such pain and hurt in there faces. They were and still are 100% lost without their Dad/Son. This is when I realized what true grief was.

My first thought was I want to help, but I didn't know how. I know the feeling of grief and it's a powerful emotion to try and deal with. There is no cure for it and there is nothing to lessen the pain...This is when I did some research on grief and found "Camp Hope" online. This has been my way of helping not only myself but others through loss in their life. I've gotten so much from Camp Hope that I can't even begin to put into words. Yes, I volunteer but I get just as much from the kids and fellow counselors as they get from me. Surrounding yourself with people that share the same experience as you is more powerful than you could ever imagine. Camp Hope has every personality with every situation of loss you could ever imagine. No matter who you are or what you've been through "Camp Hope" has someone you can identify with. Camp Hope makes me a better person. This is why I come back and will never leave!

Volunteer Highlight: Louise

I found my way to Camp HOPE through the encouragement of my husband, Tom Pease, who often sings at Camp HOPE’s closing ceremonies. That was more than 25 years ago. I have now had the deep pleasure of being part of more than 75 remarkable Camps. When I was 14 my parents and two of my sisters died in a devastating car accident. At my first Camp HOPE all of my campers and co-counselors had lost family members to car accidents. I will never forget the depth of our sharing; of being surrounded by 6th grade girls and other women who understood so fully my own experience. It is these powerful bonds, this loving support that I, that we, find within each Camp. We have created family. We have learned to listen deeply. Camp HOPE is a place of love.

Volunteer Highlight: Josh

I recently lost a buddy to suicide. The emotional rollercoaster that followed was intense, to say the least. Luckily I had friends and family who were supportive during this very trying time. One of those friends who lost the same buddy, told me about Camp Hope and that he was going to be volunteering. I decided to tag along and 1 camp has turned into 5 within a blink of an eye. My intentions for going were to create something good out of the loss of my friend. Being an adult and having to go through all of the stages of grief and how they sneak back up on you when you least expect it, I couldn't imagine how hard it would be for a child to go through those same emotions. Providing a fun get away while being surrounded by others who understand what they are going through is simply awesome. My first camp, I was paired up with the younger boys. Two of the boys in my group were brothers who lost their dad two months before camp. Their dad was the outdoorsman type who spent as much time as he could hanging out with his kids teaching them to hunt, fish, hike, camp and much more. Listening to them tell their stories and how much those stories meant to them was humbling.

Volunteer Highlight: Rose Mary

I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 7 years old. A friend who also lost a parent suggested I come to Camp Hope as an adult to share my experience. I keep coming back because of the Camp Hope magic that heals my heart. The relationships that I have built are like family and I received more from giving then I ever thought I could. I had a camper who lost his father and when he spoke of how it has changed his life it drew so many similarities to how I felt as a child. I was able to share that I understood the feelings he had and you could tell it was healing to normalize some of how he felt. The ability to Express those feelings at such a young age when it took me into my adulthood to understand loss was astounding to me.

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