Our Name is HOPE
"Our Name is HOPE"
By Becky Loy
A month has passed since our fall Camp HOPE where we reached a landmark of sorts. And I’m not sure
how to feel about it. We have now served 5,000 grieving children.
Acknowledging this to our staff and newly arrived families, there was a smattering of applause, and I
didn’t know how to feel about that.
Do I feel satisfaction that we helped so many children and teens start or restart their grieving? Or do I
feel a deep sadness that we had to offer help to so many? After the bit of some clapping, I looked out at
the new faces. No smiles, just wide eyes. Eyes that expressed fear, vulnerability and heartbreak. My
words caught in my throat. It struck me hard that there will always be more new faces.
But, the day was a beautiful fall gift. Volunteers in the kitchen and counselors, from all over the state,
were like worker bees. The kitchen bees were already prepping for lunch, knowing their assorted
comfort foods would warm the bellies of campers. The volunteer counselors decorating tables with
crepe paper, puzzles, games, are also mentally preparing for how to greet a crying child, a pensive teen,
an angry preteen. I watched as the emptiness of the dining hall just an hour ago had turned into a hub
of people bonded over the main goal of helping a hurting child. It is electric in this space. Imagine being
with 50 or so others that have one common goal and that is to bring love and healing. The music starts,
the cookies are out, we are ready. We see the first campers walking down the path and we look to one
another silently as it begins.
If there are angels walking among us, I am 100% positive that I’ve met several at Camp HOPE. One in
particular is Diane. Diane has volunteered for Camp for several years. Because she is a therapist, she
became my ‘go-to’, my person with the answers to difficult situations. She was my go-to when a young
girl became enraged when she found out she had been lied to and was now at a grief camp. Before this
girl could run, I asked her to please listen to my friend Diane. She relented. Diane assured her that the
power is hers. She would ultimately decide if she stayed or not. Powerful for a young teenager to hear.
Diane said she could take it a step at a time. At any time she could say goodbye to us. But before that
happens, Diane brings her to our quilt room that is filled with beautiful blankets and quilts donated to
us. The young girl looks over the array. She stops at a Hello Kitty themed quilt, looks at Diane and pulls
up her pant leg to show her Hello Kitty socks. She smiles. The blanket is in her arms. She stays.
Another is Corey. I sat back and held a boy’s frightened grandma in my arms as Corey convinced her
little camper, who took shelter in a closet and was screaming out his pain, to come out and let her help
him. She convinced him finally, after he had exhausted himself, and placed him in his grandma’s lap.
She wrapped him up in her arms. So much healing to do.
And there is Maria, Kristi, Lilia, Alexis and Vicky who make up our Equity Committee to ensure that all
families feel welcome and comfortable at Camp HOPE. Angels doing the work that make children and
teens of color and or are part of the LGBTQI community feel that Camp is for them too. Our language
has changed, our forms have been updated and our staff receives an equity training led by Lilia and
another camper turned volunteer, Elliot. I watched as some of this group took extra care to make sure
their trans camper felt safe last Camp.
These are just a few of the people at Camp that I am in awe of, and consider to be some of the best
people I know.
And I guess I’m feeling that reaching that number of 5,000 is a good thing. The whole idea of Camp is
hope. Our name is HOPE. We will be there, ready for the next group of new faces.