The day featured music therapy, face- and rock-painting, relay races, and visits with a therapy dog and a horse.

JACKSON TWP.  It was a happy, busy Friday at the Aultman Compassionate Care Center, where more than a dozen youngsters and volunteers descended on the grounds at 2821 Woodlawn Ave. NW for the first "Camp Hope."

Sponsored by Aultman Hospice and Palliative Care, Camp Hope is a new program designed to help children navigate the grieving process. It's the brainchild of Chaplain Kathleen Krause and Christine Scott, a grief counselor.

"Christine and I were at St. Luke's having a program for the staff there, and we thought we need one for our own children," Krause said.

"Hopefully, it will grow to more than one day," Scott said.

Scott said they spread the word about Camp Hope through fliers to schools and agencies that work with children.

"I do private counseling and counseling at Schreiber School, so I see some of these same kids," she said.

Children process grief differently than adults, according to Scott.

"They work through their grief in play and interaction with others," she said, adding that it sometimes manifests in "behavioral issues at home and in school."

Children also can struggle with understanding the concept of death.

"A lot of children have magical thinking in that they believe it was something they said that caused the person's death," she said. "They don't talk about it because they're afraid of upsetting their parent or caregiver. It's very isolating."

Assisted by a small platoon of employees and hospital volunteers, Camp Hope offered music therapy, face- and rock-painting, relay races, and visits with a therapy dog and a horse. Each child will be given a small, heart-shaped stone with hole in it, symbolizing their loss, Krause said.

"They're also writing notes to their loved one and tying them to a helium balloon, and at the end of the day, we'll release them," she added.

A grateful Krause noted that some employees used some of their vacation time to help out at the camp.

Scott said her goal for Camp Hope is to assure children that they aren't alone in their grief, and that there is help. She noted that kids don't share their grief with their classmates because they want to fit in.

"It's helpful to know that others are going through a similar situation," she said. "We want to help them feel that any emotion is OK."

"I want them to feel loved and blessed," Krause said. "They're not alone."

To learn more, contact Krause at 330-363-6402.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP