Camp Braveheart celebrates 10 years helping children deal with loss

Camp Braveheart celebrates 10 years helping children deal with loss

Forrest Ficke, 16, of Newport, lays down a bass line as he and local musician Becky Chace sing an inspirational song for the closing ceremonies of the 10th annual Camp Braveheart last Friday afternoon. (Breeze photos by Michael Smith)

SCITUATE – It’s near mid-day, and you can hear the soothing sound of a summer breeze passing through the needles of pine trees.

The tranquil waters of the pond are like glass reflecting the calm of the afternoon and within this setting the sounds of laughter, music, and camaraderie permeate the air.

Altogether, an ideal environment for healing – and finding one’s compass.

For the 10th straight year, Camp Braveheart, which has grown from 20 kids in its first year to more than 100, has been providing counseling and relief for grief-stricken young adults who have lost a loved one or someone close to them.

This year’s camp, set at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate, features art therapy, a drum circle activity with holistic Professor Chris Carbone from Salve Regina, Zumba, kayaking, and story telling - all designed to help release negative energy to aid the healing process.

“Find Your Compass” was this year’s camp theme with youngsters divided into teams representing compass directions.

Although the camp is designed with children in mind, it’s not only the kids who are healing.

Glocester resident Lori Raymond, who lost her husband in 2010, has been coming to Camp Braveheart with her 8-year-old son Jake for the last six years after she heard about the camp through hospice care.

“We attended several sessions and we heard about the camp,” said Raymond, who volunteers as a counselor. “I thought it was a wonderful idea.”

After attending her first camp, Raymond was hooked. “I know there’s a lot of summer camps, but this is special. There’s a lot of love and healing experience here.”

Raymond noted that Jake was the only one in his school that lost a parent and felt he couldn’t talk about it with anyone. “Here, he can talk about it,” said Raymond. “And, I’ve seen it with other children.”

Jen Grace, who is attending her second Braveheart camp with her 14-year-old daughter Hunter, had a slightly different path in arriving here than Raymond did.

“I lost my 8-year-old son Cole who was in hospice care, but we never used the camp for our own healing,” said Grace, a resident of West Warwick. “Hunter was skeptical about it and went to counseling after her brother’s death.”

What transpired was a sense of giving back.

“Hunter wanted to give back to kids, so we came here last year and it’s been an amazing experience as a volunteer and a counselor.”

Grace was amazed at the bonds she and her daughter created with others who were grieving like they were.

“It was a no-brainer to return here because of the bonds formed in the two-day period. They are expecting you to return,” said Grace of the kids. “You think you were here for ten years, that’s how much they know you.”

As all the campers and volunteers sat around a camp fire pit, this year’s three-day camp concluded with Ryan Esbjerg of Flex Your Face, an organization that helps ignite people’s lives through celebrating small moments and promoting positive lifestyles, telling anecdotes in how special everyone is.

“Out of 7.4 billion people on this planet, there will never, ever, ever be anyone like you,” Esbjerg said, as his words resonated with the campers and their parents.

Deanna Upchurch, senior grief counselor at Hope Hospice & Palliative Care Rhode Island, called everyone “warriors” who face their pain each and every day.

Afterward, everyone released butterflies into the air as a symbol of rebirth.

For 16-year-old Forrest Ficke, who has been coming to the camp since its inception when he lost his father, said Camp Braveheart is the best camp he’s ever seen.

“There is no way I can be what I am today without this camp,” Ficke said to his peers.

Ficke, who plays bass guitar, grabbed his instrument and played along with guitarist Becky Chace of the Becky Chace Band, and drummer Carbone for a sing-a-long that emphasized healing.

As Ficke was placing his bass delicately back into its case, Chace, noting Ficke’s bass playing, came up and said, “Pretty good with only one practice.”

Professor Chris Carbone of Salve Regina College leads a drumming exercise with kids of different ages helping to cope and connect with others at Camp Braveheart at Camp Aldersgate on Aug. 4.
Lynn Sheehan of Soaring Words, a Zumba activity organization, hugs 14-year old Kaylie Johnson from Pawtucket.
Ryan Esbjerg, of Flex Your Face, takes a selfie with this year’s campers.
Kids particpating in this year’s Camp Braveheart gaze at a butterfly about to be released during the closing ceremonies.