A fun and safe place for grieving children.

about

Our Story

Comfort Zone Camp was founded in 1998 in Richmond, VA by Lynne Hughes, author of the bereavement book for teens, You Are Not Alone. Our camp program was born out of a desire to provide a caring community and safe haven in which children who are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver are heard, understood, and taught healthy ways to process their grief. We are powered by our campers and their instinctual ability to help each other heal, employees who are highly devoted to our mission, dedicated volunteers from the communities (and beyond!) where our camps are located, and generous donors who have been brought to us through their own personal experiences of loss, or because they simply believe in our mission.

 

Why We Serve Children in Bereavement

The death of a parent, sibling or legal guardain is undeniably one of the most traumatic events a child can experience; however, most parents, schools and social programs lack the tools needed to help children address their grief adequately. Instead of finding a supportive, understanding community in the wake of a parent or sibling death, most children find that friends can’t relate to their loss, family members are consumed with handling their own grief, and society rewards them for “soldiering on” or showing little-to-no reaction to such a life-altering event.  This gap in both services and understanding often leads to a severe emotional isolation in children that can negatively affect their ability to reach their full potential at home, in school and in their communities.

 

Comfort Zone Camp believes that by providing children with an ongoing, strong support network and multiple opportunities to tackle grief-related issues as they arise, we increase children’s likelihood of reaching their full potential and utilizing that potential as they transition into adulthood. 

 

What Makes Us Different

Some of what distinguishes Comfort Zone from other bereavement programs and traditional therapeutic offerings include:

 

Year-round Access: There are very few permanent bereavement camps available in the US. Many bereavement camp programs are one-time offerings provided by non-bereavement organizations, and there is little opportunity to maintain the community formed while at camp. We provide a strong program and a peer community from which campers may draw support (or to which they may lend support) as issues arise throughout their entire grief journey.

 

Free to All Children: Children are not in control of their family’s finances and grief knows no economic boundaries. Therefore, our program is free to all children, regardless of economic background. For children from low income/disadvantaged families and for whom the costs of travel would prohibit attendance, travel scholarships and parent lodging during camp may be available.

 

Effective by Design: Our program was specifically designed with the input of several children's grief therapists to empower children in the midst of their grief and to address grief according to how children actually grieve, which is a very different process from how adults grieve. Many other bereavement resources available today are actually geared towards adult patterns of grief.

 

Our Little Buddy/Big Buddy Matching Process: Each weekend camp has approximately 65 campers, and campers are paired 1:1 with volunteers throughout the entire weekend in a "Little Buddy/Big Buddy" system. Campers often come to camp starved for attention because the family in their life is consumed with handling their own grief, and the 1:1 CZC pairing model provides a dedicated mentor, friend and "anchor" for each camper. Many of our volunteer Big Buddies also suffered the loss of a loved one as a child and are able to add a unique element to the camper's experience through the sharing of their own grief journey. The matching process happens prior to camp, after campers and volunteers are thoroughly screened. Matches are based on compatibility of personality, grief experience, hobbies and cultural backgrounds.

 

Removal of Barriers: Children often feel like they are totally alone and that no one could possibly understand them after a parent or sibling death. While every bereavement camp offers "loss" as a basis for bonding, Comfort Zone creates multiple opportunities for children to meet others who are healing from the same specific type of loss (i.e. parent to suicide, sibling to illness, etc.), either through their Big Buddy match or through their Healing Circles®. This matching process truly helps children realize that they are not alone - a very important revelation in a child's grief journey.

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