The past couple years have been tough on Sara Boyer-Durante.
When four Mainland Regional High School students, friends of her older siblings, died in a car accident in August 2011, Sara took it hard. Soon after, her best friend moved away, compounding her grief, and the loss of her grandfather last year left the normally cheery girl shellshocked.
After trying in vain to help Sara heal, her mother, Eileen, in December enrolled her in a bereavement camp called Kira's Kamp at Holy Redeemer HomeCare and Hospice in Egg Harbor Township, where she works. It made an immediate difference.
It is the camp's combination of grief counseling and fellowship with other young people who have experienced losses that make it beneficial, Boyer-Durante said.
"I think being with other kids that experienced losses it just made it safer," Boyer-Durante said. "She realized it's OK to be sad about these things, and she began to feel better."
The camp is named in memory of a former client of Holy Redeemer's, 5-year-old Kira Cundiff, who had a brain tumor and died in July 2009. The camp has been held twice a year since August 2011. The most recent was June 28 at Holy Redeemer's facility.
The camp is designed to help kids deal with their grief in a constructive way, doing so through art projects led by local art teacher Dar Ehrhart and penning a song as a group with singer-songwriter Michael A. Michnya. At the June 28 camp, kids made candles and wrote a song called "When I Was Three."
A typical Kira's Kamp has about 10 to 12 kids, and the camp has served more than 25 kids since it started, said Stephanie Hand, Holy Redeemer bereavement coordinator for Atlantic County. Many kids attend multiple camps, she said, not only helping themselves get past their tough times but helping others as well.
"There's more of a connectedness and more of an ability to support other children rather than just focusing on their struggles," said Hand, who lives in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township. "They've developed friendships, relationships."
Kyrie Barrett, 9, began attending Kira's Kamps after the death of her great grandmother, whom she called G.G., last July.
Kyrie attended the June 28 camp, saying the atmosphere of the program is great for helping kids like her make sense of their situation.
"This place is very full of joy," Kyrie said. "It's great, and it has great people, great children. I mean, a lot of them are funny, and their music and art, it just crashes together and makes a wonderful camp."
Kyrie spent much of her time at the June 28 camp interacting with therapy dog Finn, a 2-year-old retriever mix who was brought by Susan Sikorski, a friend of the Cundiff family.
Kyrie said she enjoys attending the camp for many reasons, chief among them how enjoyable it is, beginning to end.
"What sticks out for me is having fun," Kyrie said. "This place is full of fun, and that's usually what matters."
Contact Braden Campbell:
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For more information about Kira's Kamp, call 800-818-4747 or visit holyredeemer.com.