Friday, March 20, 2015

Camp BEARable Set for July 17-19 With New Camp Director

Pictured is Ashlee Carder with two bears made by hospice volunteers.
Each camper is given a bear to take home.
State of the Heart Hospice will hold the nonprofit agency’s annual Camp BEARable July 17-19 at the Spiritual Center at Maria Stein. The weekend camp is free and is open to any youth, ages six to 15, which is experiencing grief after the loss of a loved one. There need be no association with hospice care. This year marks the 15th year for the camp, and over 600 youth have attended over the years.

This year also marks the first as Camp Director for Ashlee Carder, a Certified Music Therapist and Grief Support Specialist for State of the Heart. This will be her second year at camp; last year she attended and was a “buddy” for one of the campers.

“I saw firsthand the importance and value of Camp BEARable,” she explained. “I saw the campers come in on a Friday night, somewhat shy and soft spoken,” she said. “Within 24 hours on Saturday night they were very open with one another and involved in the camp experience. The camp provides a mixture of fun and games along with serious dialogue about grief and loss. Through the various activities, children respond and are more willing to talk about their feelings.”

She added, “I saw instances where campers came to camp thinking they were the only one who felt the way they did, and they felt they were different from their friends. After they were there and listened to others and interacted with their peers, they were more open to talking about their feelings and accepting where they were emotionally and mentally with their loss.”

An important part of the camp experience is the volunteers who serve as “specially trained buddies” for the campers. This year, Carder said they would like for each volunteer to have only one camper that they interact with. Those volunteering must be 18 years or older and must pass a state and federal background check. State of the Heart pays for the background check.

“The volunteer should enjoy being outside as many activities are outside; they should be a good listener and relate to children in that age bracket of six to 15,” she said. A volunteer can specify which age group they prefer to work with. “It would be good also if the volunteer has some personal experience with loss as it helps them relate to their buddy,” she added.

State of the Heart cares for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. The agency has offices in Greenville, Coldwater and Portland. Children from the entire service area are welcome to attend the weekend camp.

The camp provides a “safe” environment where the youth are with peers and trusted adults. For many of those attending, it is the first time they have felt comfortable talking about their feelings. Hospice officials nationwide who conduct such camps say they believe attending camp and expressing feelings about the loss of a loved one can prevent serious problems later on in life.

An orientation for the buddy volunteers will be held on Friday, July 17 from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Spiritual Center. “This will give the volunteers an idea what to expect at camp and give them an overview of activities,” Carder said. “There will be many fun activities, Carder added, including caricature artist drawings, face painting, and car club rides including a ride in an old fashioned fire truck.”

The serious side of camp will include a presentation by a representative from Children’s Medical Center, Tom O’Neal, who will lead a discussion about trust, team building, coping skills, and feelings of comfort and opening up to talk about personal grief and loss. In addition, there will be a panel discussion allowing the campers to ask any question of the three panelists: A physician, a funeral director, and a minister.

Carder said she noted last year that one major positive aspect of camp is that it “provides the campers with tools to deal with their grief and loss when they go home. If they are having a bad day, they can recall something they learned at camp which will help them. This is a very positive outcome for the youth.”

She emphasized that those attending camp need not have any hospice experience. At previous camps, the majority of campers have no association with hospice care. Many have lost siblings or parents in accidents or to natural causes; some have lost friends or loved ones to suicide, and in some cases they have had a loss due to homicide.

Registration is required in order to attend and can be done by going to the State of the Heart web site to the Camp BEARable tab. There, you can download the application. You can email as an attachment, or print off a copy and mail it in or drop it off at one of the offices. An application for volunteers is also available and can be completed the same way. For questions about camp, please call Carder at 1-800-417-7535 or email her at If you or your club or civic organization would like to make a contribution to help with expenses, please contact Ryan Gathard, Fund Development Director, at the same phone number or at

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