Monday, September 30, 2013

State of the Heart Hospice Has New Addition to Camp BEARable Experience

Pictured after placing the bears on the Camp BEARable Memory Fence, are left to right, rear, Ryan Gathard, Fund Development Director for State of the Heart, Chris Killian, Bill Prenger, and Ted Bauer, Executive Director for State of the Heart. Front row, left to right, Christy Baker, Development Specialist, and Marlene Black, Bereavement Specialist.
For the past 13 years, State of the Heart Hospice has conducted Camp BEARable for grieving children. Five hundred and fifty youth have attended camp over the years. The nonprofit agency recently added something new to the Camp BEARable experience: A permanent metal fence which contains small l bears, each carrying the name of a loved one for each of the campers. The fence is on the grounds of the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein where the camp is held each summer.

“The fence and the personalized bears provide a permanent, visible testimony for honoring and remembering the many who are loved and who are no longer with us,” stated Traci Straley, Director of Social Services for State of the Heart Hospice. “The fence with the colorful bears is something that the campers and their families can visit at any time.”

The driving force behind the fence is Chris Killian, a Pastoral Counselor from New Bremen who has helped at camp as a volunteer and buddy, and in recent years has assisted and offered much input with supportive programming along with State of the Heart Bereavement staff.

Killian, who is a member of the New Bremen-New Knoxville Rotary, said the idea came from a project the Rotary did in New Bremen. It is called the New Bremen-New Knoxville Rotary Sunshine Playground and it is designed for special needs children. At that park, located in New Bremen, butterflies line a fence. Killian thought that a similar fence with bears attached would be a nice addition to the Camp BEARable experience.

“The Camp BEARable Memory Fence will be something that the campers can come back to over the years,” he explained. “The fence will tie them to their experience at camp and their journey in working through their grief.”

Camp BEARable is free and is for any child, ages six to 15, who is experiencing difficulty with grief. The camp is open to any child, regardless of association with hospice. Over the weekend, the campers enjoy a mixture of fun and games with serious dialogue about grief and their personal feelings. Consistently, those attending camp say they feel they are in a “safe” environment and for the first time, realize that others feel as they do. They feel comfortable talking about their grief and loss of a loved one.

This year at camp, the youngsters had a “preview” of the fence concept. At the conclusion of camp, a temporary fence was put up. The campers made temporary bears with the name of their loved one on the bear. Each bear was placed on the temporary fence. When the campers left to go home, they took their bears with them.

Now, the fence is completed and ready for a dedication on Sunday, October 6 for the campers, their families and friends from 2 to 2:30 p.m. The fence will be expanded each year to accommodate new bears. Each of the past two years, more than 60 youth have attended the camp.

“It was fulfilling to see the fence completed with the bears added,” Killian said. He and several staff members from State of the Heart recently placed the bears on the fence which is located on the left in a tree shaded area across from the pond as you drive in.

Assisting that day was Bill Prenger of St. Henry. He attended the first camp as a camper, has helped raise funds for camp and has returned to help as a volunteer and buddy. “I think the fence is a great addition,” he said. “It will serve as a permanent reminder for the kids of their camp experience.”

Several businesses and individuals were involved in getting the fence completed, Killian said, with the companies offering price breaks and extending help and assistance. “Jim Smith, owner of Smith Insta-Shade in Wapakoneta constructed the fence, helping us with the costs,” Killian said. A fellow Rotarian, Rex Katterheinrich, village administrator in New Knoxville, pitched in to help Killian and the construction group put up the fence. Forty Nine degrees of Coldwater created the colorful, durable bears at a cost savings, and donated a large logo piece for the fence. “Greg Bronkema of Forty Nine degrees and Amy Goettemoeller were extremely helpful and happy to participate in the project,” Killian added. “State of the Heart is grateful to the board of the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein for allowing us to put up the fence on the property.”

State of the Heart Hospice, with offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland, cares for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. For more information visit the agency’s web site at

Featured Posts

/* Track outbound links in Google Analytics */