We found experience camps by chance 8 months after we lost Jackson’s dad and just over a year after our loss, I put my very shy, reserved 10 year old on a bus full of strangers to be taken over 3 hours away for a week - with no contact from him for entire time he was gone. People thought i was crazy. I might have questioned my own sanity from time to time but something told me to have faith and that this was something that could be truly amazing.
And it was. This organization is simply unbelievable. They have this down to a science. It started with an hour long conversation with one of the directors. We discussed our loss, how Jackson was doing what type of kid he was, concerns etc. I knew this info would be shared with his caretakers at camp.
As we neared camp departure day, I got email reminders, phone calls and text messages confirming drop off bus departure information.
We arrived at the bus drop off to see apprehensive kids and smiling friendly staff members who made sure to talk to all of us and introduce the kids to each other.
We received a text message letting us know the kids had arrived at camp safely and nightly emails telling us what the day looked like for our kids not to mention the hundreds of photos that were posted each night. They did everything they could to keep us connected to our kids.
The week at camp truly is the best week ever for these kids. Even if your child like mine is coping fairly well with their grief - send them. They will be better for it - for spending time with other kids who just get it. For being able to focus on themselves for an entire week and just be kids. When I picked Jackson up I was blown away by the love the staff had for these kids. The way they had become family in one short week. These are the best people you could ever have around your kids.
The staff behind experience camps are truly the most amazing humans. My son was is definitely not a feeling talker when it comes to his grief, he was against this camp thing from the start. All of the changed the second he got to camp. He is a different child. Experience camps staff gave him his smile back, taught him ways to handle his grief and he made lifelong bonds with kids who "get it" Not only has he talked about wanting to go back EVERY summer but he wants to be a camp counselor when he can. Thank you, Thank you for everything you do for the kids.
I first learned about Experience Camps in 2015 when my son went to Camp Manitou and there was a fundraiser for the camp at Visiting Day. We sat with a couple who were the primary caregivers for their grandchildren after both parents died. They shared their story with us and that’s when I knew I needed to support this amazing opportunity for kids to heal, feel accepted and grieve in a safe, encouraging space. This is the first year I’m able to volunteer and be a camp counselor - have wanted to do it for so long - really looking forward to it. They provide webinars and training to prepare volunteers for the experience.
"The Best Week Ever"
As a volunteer I got to witness my wonderful bunk (8/9year old girls) form friendships, grow in confidence, have heaps of fun and get the opportunity to share about a love one that has died.
I am already counting down until next year! Can't wait to see the campers return!
The most incredible organization that has the most profound impact on everyone involved. Truly a life changing week for kids who have experienced a significant loss, giving them the opportunity to be around other kids who get it.
My 3 sons lost their father in 2017 suddenly. I never knew of bereavement camps existing before this and my sons had the best week ever being there. First words off the bus after I got a hug and kiss from them was “ I can’t wait to go back next year” it was a truly amazing thing for them to attend
My daughter was 13 when her father died from pancreatic cancer. It was difficult dealing with her depression and mine at the same time. She went to Experience Camp exactly 6 months after her father passed away. I was not certain at the time that I was doing the right thing. When I picked her up a week later, it was like she was a different person. I saw her laugh and smile more in that one week than I did in the past 6 months. She made lifelong friends and could not wait to tell me all about them. The counselors were amazing! It was my daughter's first time at overnight camp and I was really worried about leaving her with strangers. I spoke to so many of her counselors that knew exactly what she was going through and exactly what was needed. One of the first things she said to me when I picked her up was "I am going back next year". I was a totally positive experience for her.
My son was only 10 years old when his father passed away very sudden. I would drop my son off at school every morning and he would just cry, telling me he didn't want to go to school. There were a few times i would drive away thinking to myself, ok he's gonna be ok today but then i look in my mirror and see my son running to my car asking for me to please please take me home. Aaron told me he was now different from his friends and all the kids at school because his dad died. I did whatever i could to comfort my son and tried explaining that he wasnt different. I knew my son's heart was completely shattered by the loss of his dad, his bestfriend, his one and only super hero Dad. I knew i had to look into getting my son help. I found Experience Camps on line and immediately looked into it. I did question myself if Aaron would spend 5 nights away with children he didn't know but i went ahead and showed him the video of the camp and he did some reading on it as well.
10 months later my son is on the bus heading to camp in Maine. Absolutely the best decision ever!! I picked Aaron up the first year he attended. As soon as he saw me , he ran to me saying loudly, "Mom, im not different, im not different" I will never get that image out of my mind. I think of it all the time and it warms my heart!! Next August it will be Aarons 6th year! The staff at Experience Camps, i cant even begin to describe how truly amazing they all. When the bus arrives at camp the entire staff is there greeting every single child as they step off that bus with high fives, hugs, dances, its such an amazing thing to watch. It definitely sets the mood for what is about to be "the best week ever" Caregivers get an email each night with that days activities, what was on the menu for lunch/dinner (btw, food is amazing) and the agenda for the next day. Also posted nightly are pictures of the days activities. I dont gi to sleep until i read the nightly email and look through the pictures. Experience Camps holds a special place in my heart for what they do not just for my son Aaron but all the children.
My son was one of the original campers. The difference Experience Camps has made in his life is profound. They truly give grieving children an amazing week of sharing, bonding and hope. I can't say enough about how wonderful they are and what a difference they make in the lives of children.
I cannot say enough good things about this charity. After the unexpected loss of my wife, I immediately wondered how this would affect my sons. How will they process the loss of their mother? How can I help to minimize damage done to them emotionally? How can they recover as quickly as possible?
I was fortunate to find Experience Camps and sent my twelve-year-old son to an overnight camp. It was as difficult for me as for my son to send him away by himself for a week. It was by far the best decision I had made in all of the grueling decisions I made in the first year after the loss of my wife. When I picked him up from camp, I asked him “How did it go?” His reply, “Dad it was the best week of my life”!
The following year I sent both of my sons, now eleven and thirteen, off to experience camp. I picked them up and asked the same question to my eleven-year-old son as I had asked the year before; the response was the same.
Grief is difficult for anyone to process, but for children who are just learning to make their way through life, it is even more difficult to process and get through. Experience camp began to give them the self-confidence to move forward. They started to have the strength to begin their life journey again and make some sense of their new reality.
Meeting and living with peers of their age who had experienced the same tragedy, or unfortunately worse tragedy, then they had experienced made them realize that it happens to others and there was still plenty to be fortunate about in their life. Through this experience and the help of the counselors, not only did they become more self-confident but they also had a desire to do more with their life. They wanted to “go for it!”, what an amazing difference this one week had made in their young lives.
The counselors at Camp Experience are simply outstanding! Not only are they knowledgeable and skilled in counseling, but also role models for my sons. On the ride home from camp both of them expressed a strong desire to become counselors for Experience Camps when they are young men. I do not think I can write anything as convincing as the endorsement my sons made in wanting to one day be counselors.
I wish that I, or anyone else, ever needed Experience Camps, but I am so very grateful that it exists.
My granddaughter loss her Mom two years ago when she was entering middle school. Her Mom was her everything! I was blessed when I found this wonderful camp. This was her second year, the first year they helped her cope with the loss of her Mom. This second year they helped her cope with the changes that have taken place in her life with her Dad and his personal life. This camp allows them to express their feelings, have fun bonding with friends who know what they are going through. Sometimes the only vacation that they will have over the summer. It is the Best Week Ever! Thank you for all the support and happiness you have given my granddaughter and all these children. I am forever grateful to see the smile and happiness she used to share with her Mom. Mildred Vega, grandmother of Saniya Lamoni.
Former camper who’s dad died when I was 3. Growing up I had a lot of behavioral problems and didn’t know anyone else who’s had someone in their family die who was my age. I felt left out and different from other kids because of it. Then when I was in 5th grade I found out about experience camps from my guidance counselor and decided to give it a try. By the time I got to camp I already loved it and formed bonds with all the other kids I drove up with and cried when it was time to go because I didn’t want to leave. That was the very first year of the camp in 2009 and I have been coming back ever since as a camper and for the past 4 summers have been a volunteer and I plan to keep coming back every summer because this organization and the people who volunteer their time have changed my life for the better, and I don’t know where I’d be with out this organization because I don’t have the problems I had going into my first few years of camp. This place has helped me mature and become the person I am today. And if I could I would rate this organization over a 5, this is a place I absolutely love and something I look forward to every year!
It might sound cliche, but Experience Camps is truly the best week ever. The bond these kids share and the growth they experience while at camp is surreal to watch unfold. I lost my father when I was in college. The campers are at a stage in their lives when personal development is so pivotal. Experience Camps gives them an outlet where they can shine and reach their maximum potential.
I consider everyone from the clinicians to the campers a part of my family. Each year I count the seconds until we are all able to reunite.
ExCamps are amazing 1 week camps where grieving children have the magical experience of being with other children who have suffered the huge loss of a parent/caregiver/sibling, etc. My twin boys, now 14, started going several years ago. This one week is like water in a desert and all the kids who attend say the same thing. We look forward to this one week of the year more than any other. The volunteer staff are the most caring and giving people and many have experienced the same loss. At school and in other environments where there are kids, most children that have suffered this kind of devastating loss don't usually express their grief. They can't talk about how their person died from , cancer (my boys dad) to suicide or accidents or many illnesses. And most children (and even adults) who haven't gone through this don't really know what to say to them. But at camp the kids not only have a chance to have an incredibly fun packed week but have opportunities to share their grief, talk about the person they've lost, cry and laugh. It is not a depressing thing, it's a chance to speak the same language together, to talk about their loved one without feeling awkward or judged or to stand out in any way. In our case, losing the children's father has been the most painful experience of our lives and the ripple effect continues throughout my children's lives never being able to see or hug their dad again. Never being able to have him at any milestone event again. One of the most amazing things about ExCamps is how the children return year after year and we are able to watch them grow in empathy and leadership and they eventually pay it forward. There is no doubt that my boys will eventually become councilors. Thank you ExCamps for being a huge part of the village that will help my boys not only overcome a loss but turn into giving adults. I would never be able to pay for this week and am so grateful for everything these boys get there for free! Thank you to all that help to fund these incredible camps. Much love! Leslie D.
I have volunteered with Experience Camps for three summers now. Coming in, I had experience as a camp counselor but never anything in this realm. However, after experiencing a week at camp on three separate occasions, I can personally attest to the incredible things this camp does. Seeing these children, kids who have overcame immense hardships, smile and just manage to enjoy themselves is awe inspiring. At camp we experience the full range of emotions together, creating a open environment allowing the kids to struggle together, but also have these incredible moments of pure unadulterated joy. I cannot stress this enough, volunteering at this camp is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I explicitly mark this week of the year on my calendar as soon as they announce which it is. I have loved volunteering with this incredible organization as long as I have, and I plan on working with Experience Camps as long as possible.