Camp Firefly’s 13th annual camp for bereaved children will take place this August

The annual overnight camp is on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 at Camp Ockanickon in Medford.

By Melissa Riker
The Sun

Camp Firefly is a one-night overnight camp being held on Aug. 25 to Aug. 26 at Camp Ockanickon in Medford. The camp is geared toward children ages 7 to 14 who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Children must live in Burlington, Camden or Gloucester counties to attend the camp, and there is no cost to campers or their families.

Camp Firefly is run by a committee within the Moorestown Visiting Nurse Association, a nonprofit organization founded in 1904 that provides home care, hospice and counseling services. The hospice team coordinates the camp, and this will be the 13th year running the camp. About 50 children attend each summer, making a total of more than 500 campers in attendance since the start of the camp.

The human resources department of Moorestown Visiting Nurse Association assists in the recruitment process for the team of grief professionals. These grief professionals are trained and attend the camp to present methods to help the children cope with their loss. Among this team are trained grief counselors, spiritual counselors, trained volunteer counselors and junior counselors ages 16 to 20 to provide assistance to the main grief counselors.

Camp Firefly provides the children with traditional camp activities, such as swimming, canoeing, hiking, arts and crafts, cookouts and sports. These activities are combined with bereavement activities to introduce new coping mechanisms to the children. Some of these activities include creating small boats out of milk cartons, where each child can put a photo or the name of their loved one onto the milk carton. The cartons are then placed on a candlelit boat and let go onto the lake to symbolize letting go of their loved one.

There is also an activity where each child creates a quilt square in memory of their lost loved one which gets sewn into one quilt from that summer’s campers. This symbolizes that each child is never alone and they have someone to lean on throughout their grieving process.

This summer the camp is introducing therapeutic dogs through the Tri-State K-9 Crisis Response Team.

Kim Plasket, director of public communications at Moorestown Visiting Nurse Association, said the camp is beneficial because the children can be surrounded by others going through the same loss.

“For me, I love to see that we’re actually making a difference for these kids,” Plasket said. “It’s an amazing thing to see how much their families want them to heal and how they’re able to heal.”

This year, the camp received funding from the Beneficial Bank Foundation, Finish Line Youth Foundation and the Burlington County Funeral Directors Association, with previous funding from Holman Automotives. Moorestown Visiting Nurse Association holds fundraisers throughout the year, including its annual golf outing taking place on June 18 at Laurel Creek Country Club where donations go toward all programs.

They are also hosting a food and wine tasting fundraiser called “Spirits Night” on Oct. 12 at The Westin in Mt. Laurel.

For those interested in attending or volunteering at Camp Firefly, more information can be found on www.moorestownvna.org, by calling (856) 552–1300 or by emailing services@moorestownvna.com. Applications for campers are being accepted until July 25, and applications for volunteer counselors are being accepted until July 30.