Maegan Camp, 12, and her sister Claire, 9, say they’d love to go back to Camp Dogwood this year, if it was possible.
The sisters attended the annual camp, sponsored by West Georgia Hospice, last summer. Their mother Shannon Camp, 38, had died on Sept. 25, 2011, from complications of Cystic Fibrosis.
“She was a really good mom,” Maegan Camp says.
Pillows the girls made during the weekend camp help them remember her: Maegan’s has a drawing of a syringe on it since Shannon Camp was a nurse. Claire’s has a picture she drew of a stove and spaghetti. She loved cooking with her mom and spaghetti was one of her favorite meals.
The girls live with their dad, Matthew, who is a Coweta County firefighter. They spend a lot of time with their grandparents, including Gena Lockhart, who was Shannon’s mother.
Lockhart found out about the camp at about the same time Claire and Maegan’s school counselors suggested to the girls they attend. Lockhart actually had applied to be a volunteer at Hospice LaGrange – when she found out about the camp, she decided to volunteer there too.
“I wasn’t in the same group they were, but I was there if they needed me,” Lockhart said.
As a “buddy” to an individual camper, Lockhart sat in on group sessions with the children.
“I got as much out of it as they did,” Lockhart said.
The girls spent time outside the group sessions horseback riding, playing on a water slide, doing arts and crafts, fishing, swimming and other activities.
“I never saw them when they weren’t smiling,” Lockhart said.
Along with the pillows, they made tote bags and bracelets in the camp’s “Memory Room.”
“People called me ‘Little Mama,’ because I was the smallest and the youngest person there,” Claire said. “It was nice to do all the fun stuff and not think about the sad stuff.”
Tammy Forbus, volunteer coordinator at Hospice LaGrange, said the campers learn coping skills they can use throughout their life, which is why most campers only attend one session.
“We do make exceptions if they have another loss in their family or if they are still struggling,” she said.
Camp Dogwood is a free, overnight weekend camp for children who have lost a loved one. This year’s camp is Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 9. The camp is held at Pineland Sheriff’s Youth Home.
Volunteers may call Forbus at 706-845-3962 for a application packet or email email@example.com. Volunteering are needed for: kitchen/meals; arts and crafts; memory room, group buddies, and more. Applications for volunteering are asked to be returned as quickly as possible. A training session for all camp volunteers will take place on Tuesday, June 4.
Children in Kindergarten through eighth grade who may benefit from the camp may be signed up by calling Keith Brown at West Georgia Hospice 706-845-3905, for a camp application, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The camp is is funded entirely through donations from the community. Space is limited to 60 campers.
“We absolutely would not be able to provide this camp without the support of our community and our caring, devoted volunteers,” Forbus said. “Everyone involved with camp is able to see first-hand how these precious children are able to learn to express and work through their feelings of loss. The coping skills they learn at camp will serve them throughout their lifetime. We are so grateful for the support that West Georgia Hospice receives from our wonderful community.”