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Kids navigate grief through common bond at San Diego camp

Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 20:22:53-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A camp in Vista is giving kids a place to cope with the loss of a loved one, along with others on the same journey.

Experience Camps provide boys and girls whose parent, sibling or primary caregiver has died, with a program that helps build confidence, encourages laughter and allows them to navigate their grief through friendship, teamwork, athletics, and the common bond of loss.

The nonprofit provides the experience free for families.

"My mom she was really, really nice. I loved her with all my heart. When she passed, it was devastating," said 13-year-old Dylan from San Diego.

Dylan's mother died of breast cancer.

"It was really tough, but once I got here it was really good to know that other people had the same experience," said Dylan.

This is Dylan's third year at camp. He and others are gaining coping mechanisms to navigate their grief better.

"The common experience we all have is grief, and I think that's the strongest bond between all of us," said Amit Sura, a camp counselor.

A typical camp day includes two activity periods, such as volleyball, tennis or arts & crafts. The third morning period is focused on different techniques in the bereavement toolkit, built to help the campers identify, express, and understand their feelings.

Later in the day campers take part in a camp-wide activity, such as relay races or a hike up a nearby mountain. The camp comes together again during free swim, dinner, and an evening activity before retiring to their bunks.

"Today we did a mindfulness activity, talked about sitting with emotions like anger, happiness, sadness," said Sura.

"When they're here, and everybody's sharing their experiences and their emotions, it's a bond that's unbreakable."

Experience Camps has five locations across the country, serving boys and girls.

Families can register in November.

The nonprofit relies on donations to send children to camp for free, you can donate here.