Camp Firefly, a program of The Hospice of Moorestown Visiting Nurse Association (VNA), is a one-day camp that provides grief support for children following the death of a parent, sibling, friend or any special person or loved one.
Children ages 7 to 14 from Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties participate in arts and crafts, sports challenges, games and time with counselors.
Kim Plasket, director of communications for the VNA, has been with the nonprofit for 17 years and supports its mission, which according to moorestownvna.org, is to provide home and community-based health care services that provide optimum quality of life, independence and dignity.
Plasket described the start of the free day camp, now in its 17th year.
“There was another organization that had a grief camp, and for various reasons they were not able to continue it,” she said. “We had some very good cheerleaders within our organization who felt it was important – people within our hospice group – to have an outlet for children who experienced the loss of a parent, a brother, a sister … We felt that there needed to be an outlet for (these) children.”
Camp Firefly 2022 will be held at YMCA of the Pines in Medford on Aug. 27 and will have several counselors, including a bereavement specialist, spiritual counselor, volunteer manager and nurse. Events also include a campfire, scavenger hunt and a non-denominational memorial service.
All meals are included and each child will receive a T-shirt and a bag with camp essentials such as insect repellent and a water bottle. Camp Firefly is fully supported by grants and donations from the community.
Plasket noted how the VNA kept Camp Firefly going through COVID.
“ … We created a camp in the box (and) we gathered many of the components needed for the activities together,” Plasket noted. “ … We provided activities not just for the child who was grieving, but for their entire families, so that they could do things together while they were all on lockdown at home.”
Camp Firefly benefits children in many ways, including providing a safe environment to express grief and learn coping skills among one another.
“One of the most important components of the camp is that the children have the opportunity to bond with others who have experienced a similar loss,” Plasket explained. “ … There’s a memorial service where the families can also attend, and the children have the opportunity to speak about their loved one during services if they choose to.
“And we’re always surprised and touched by how many children come up and want to speak.”
Plasket also sees Camp Firefly as a way for children to make great memories.
“ … I hope they come away feeling positive and feeling that they’ve made friends, because I think that they have when they know they’ve all gone through this experience.”
Information on Camp Firefly is available at (856) 552-1300 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.moorestownvna.org/services/hospice/camp-firefly.