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Camp MAGIC returns to help children deal with grief

Camp MAGIC returns to help children deal with grief

June 3rd, 2018 by Joe Gamm in Local News

Elijah Moore, 7, ziplines Saturday through the confidence course as a part of Camp MAGIC at Binder Park.

Photo by Emil Lippe /News Tribune.

Baseball at Camp MAGIC probably isn't like baseball anywhere else.

Children play baseball with fruits there, according to Amy Schnoebelen, SSM Health at Home Hospice social worker and bereavement coordinator.

"It's a great way to work out some anger," Schnoebelen said.

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Saturday marked the fifth year for Camp MAGIC (Mending A Heart, Grief In Children), which promotes communication between children and parents about their losses and provides resources to parents, such as handouts and articles on understanding grief responses in children and activities for remembering loved ones and helping children cope with grief and loss. They also include lists of area support groups and counselors who can provide ongoing bereavement support.

Children attending the retreat are paired with a trained volunteer to provide companionship, support and supervision throughout all activities. The camp provides children with a safe space to express their grief, engage in special activities to help normalize their feelings and experience a sense of togetherness with other children who have lost loved ones.

Camp MAGIC, which started in St. Louis in 2012, is free of charge thanks to funding from the SSM Health Hospice and Home Health Foundation.

Children do different grief activities based on their ages, Schnoebelen said. For example, those in the older groups talk about who might be good support for them. They discuss who might be good allies, heroes or companions.

Younger children might create superhero masks and participate in other hands-on projects.

There was plenty to do for everyone in the pavilion at Binder Park on Saturday morning. There had to be because it was raining hard, and 20 children (ages 5-14) showed up. After eating breakfast, children played games — Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land and Jenga. They colored and made tie-dyed T-shirts.

Each child also received a "Bare Heart Buddy." The stuffed bear has a small pocket in the back where the grieving child can keep something to remind them of the person they lost.

Once the rain stopped Saturday morning, campers marched about a quarter-mile over to the confidence (obstacle) course, where they went through the obstacles and took turns on zip lines flying through the trees.

Sisters Bailey, 11, and Ryan Garthoeffner, 13, have been to the camp before.

Bailey said its fun, but it's also a comfortable spot for children.

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"Everybody here understands what it's like to lose a loved one," Bailey said. "And the camp is fun."

Ryan said she had looked forward to getting back into the obstacle course and conquering the rock wall.

Seven-year-old Isaiah Moore wouldn't talk much Saturday, but said his twin brother, Elijah, is only 15 seconds older than him.

Elijah did most of the talking for the two.

He said what he likes about the camp is that the children get to go on a hike, and they get to go rock climbing.

"And baseball fruit!" Elijah said. "The fruit explodes — it makes a big mess!"

But who has to clean it up?

Isaiah knew the answer, "The volunteers."

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