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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Grief camp camper becomes volunteer


At left, Camp Hope camper Samantha Tremko works on an art project in 
2002. At right, an adult Tremko reminisces with her 2002 Camp Hope 
Samantha Tremko lost her mom suddenly when she was just seven years old. Her family was just settling down from a family vacation in Florida, making the long drive home to North Tonawanda. After dropping grandparents off at their home, Samantha’s mom Robin suffered a blood clot to the heart. Her whole world suddenly changed.

A year following her loss, Samantha’s father Robert Tremko told her she was going to Camp Hope. When the day came to leave for camp in the summer of 2002 she didn’t want to go – she didn’t want to leave her father. Three days later, Samantha didn’t want to leave Camp Hope. Tremko says she enjoyed every aspect of the Camp Hope experience and that it helped her then, and continues to help — 12 years later.

“It’s helpful for children who have lost a loved one through death to have an outlet that enables them to express their grief,” states Camp Hope Director Lori Pusateri. “Whether it’s the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling or a special friend, dealing with the loss is beyond the experience of most children and their reaction is often overlooked in the activity surrounding the death. It’s natural for family members to want to protect their children from hurting and may feel that talking about the loss might worsen their grief.”

Niagara Hospice is offering its 14th Camp Hope for grieving children June 27-29 at the YMCA’s Camp Kenan in Barker. Children ages 7 to 13 throughout Western New York who have lost a loved one through death – whether or not they ever received hospice care – are invited to attend the free camp.

During the camp weekend, children learn to express their grief through many activities such as creative movement therapy, musical expression, arts and crafts, pet visits, and a memorial bonfire. Outdoor recreation like rock wall climbing, making and eating S’mores around the campfire, swimming and nature walks are also enjoyed. Camp Hope is staffed by professional counselors, trained volunteers and a nurse who is on hand for the entire weekend.

Samantha Tremko is now a 20-year-old Niagara University student studying social work.

“Camp Hope inspired me to seek a career in grief counseling,” she said. “When I attended camp 12 years ago, I learned that I was not alone; that there is a support system for me and for the other kids I met who were grieving like me.”

So inspired by Camp Hope, Tremko has registered to be a volunteer for this year’s camp, saying: “I’m really excited to volunteer and be able to return what I’ve received from Camp Hope. The experience was life-changing and if I can now change just one person’s life, it will be one of the most rewarding things I can do as I pursue a career in grief counseling.”

For a free camp application, call the Niagara Hospice bereavement department at 280-0777 or visit them online for printable forms. Applications must be received by June 17.

Applications are also available online for men and women interested in volunteering for the camp weekend – whether it’s for a few hours or for the whole weekend. Training for camp volunteers is May 31. Call 280-0777 for more information and to register.

Camp Hope is free and entirely funded by local service clubs, organizations, individuals and grants, including the Middle Chamber Society, Lockport City Fire Fighters Ball, Optimist International, Micro Graphics, UB Family Medicine and Wegman’s Supermarket on Military Road. Anyone wishing to sponsor a camper is asked to contact the Niagara Hospice Alliance development office at 439-4417.

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