Camp Lloyd helps grieving kids, adds a family day

Children at Camp Lloyd use finger paint to write the names of loved ones they've lost. (WLUK image)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- Every summer, children between the ages of 7 and 14 meet at Camp Lloyd to talk about the loved ones they've lost and deal with their grief together.

Each camp attendee is buddied with a student from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, who has studied a full semester just to intern as Camp Lloyd counselors.

The program also has five buddies who’ve experienced grief of their own and attended the camp.

It’s Camp Lloyd's 13th year helping children who’ve lost someone close to them.

For children like Kaiden DeNiel, it’s a comfortable place to talk about their loss. DeNiel lost his mom three years ago, and now he is being raised by his grandparents.

They say this camp has had a positive impact on him.

“He was excited to get up every day and come, and he would tell us about the ‘sharing circles’ where they got to talk about their feelings,” said Kathy DeNiel. “It taught him how to share memories and how to talk about it every day. "

For five days, they participate in activities that help them heal, like a Grief-fiti wall, where they each write or draw a message for their loved one.

“The kids you can relate to by -- they had someone died in their family,” said Kaiden DeNiel.

They also participate in regular summer camp activities like parachute games, kayaking, arts and crafts and swimming.

“We tend to feel that children don’t grieve or that they 'they're so adjustable' and that is not the case,” said Illene Cupit, the program’s director.

With 12 previous years of success this year organizers tried something different. Families stuck around to hang out with the children. Cupit said the idea came from previous years’ camps.

"Over the years I have had so many of the adults come and say this camp is so wonderful I wish I could go to grief camp," said Cupit.

“It seems to be going OK," she said mid-day.

Sunday was the first day of the camp, and the last day will be Friday.

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