A fun and safe place for grieving children.


"Give back to your community for it to get better"

When you go to a Virginia camp, you’re likely to find floater extraordinaire Dave Bruster. Get to know him in our quick Q&A!                                                     

How did you first hear about Comfort Zone Camp?    
When our daughter passed away she had an 8-year-old daughter who was living with us. We heard of Comfort Zone from one of the guidance counselors at her elementary school.  


What’s your favorite part about a camp weekend?  
I would have to say the Friday night Ice Breakers.  You watch the youth go from being timid and shy to letting their hair down and being themselves. A close second would have to be Sunday Memorial Service where you see the changes the weekend has made.


Why should someone sign up to be a volunteer at Comfort Zone?  
My feeling has always been you have to give back to your community for it to get better. What better could that be than to help a young person who has had such a terrible thing happen in their life learn there are others in the same boat that they are in and that it will get better.


They are going to have to work, too, for it to get better, but with the coping skills learned at Comfort Zone it will happen. What better way is there to spend a weekend than helping make this happen?

Camper Continues to Give Back in a Variety of Roles

Rachel Walters first came to Comfort Zone in New Jersey as a camper. As soon as she was old enough, she became a volunteer. Check out our Q&A with Rachel below!


How long have you been a volunteer for Comfort Zone, and what roles have you held?

I have been a volunteer for 7 years. I have been a Big Buddy, Healing Circle Assistant, Junior Counselor and a Floater. I was also a part of the Volunteer Council for two years. 



What first brought you to Comfort Zone Camp?

I originally started going to Comfort Zone Camp about 8 years ago as a camper after I lost my dad. I started volunteering as soon as I was old enough because I wanted to be able to give back and help other campers in the same way that Comfort Zone has helped me.


What’s your favorite part about camp weekend?

My favorite part of a camp weekend is the people you meet and being a part of the Comfort Zone Camp family. I truly believe that Comfort Zone is filled with some of the greatest people in the world. I love the connection that everyone makes with each other and being able to see old friends as well as make new ones. I also love the sense of family and community that everyone builds within a weekend. It is really amazing being able to witness the growth of kids within a weekend and throughout the years.


Why should others get involved at Comfort Zone?

I think that anyone who has ever thought of getting involved with Comfort Zone should definitely give it a try. I know they will not regret it. They will become part of a community like no other and witness things that are truly magical. They will get a chance to just be silly and have fun. They will be able to be a friend for a kid who really needs it and help in giving them the opportunity to be a kid again. 


A History that Continues to Unfold

Meet Chris Greim, a 6-year volunteer for Comfort Zone and one of the founders of the popular Polar Plunge fundraiser in Massachusetts.  The Polar Plunge has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Comfort Zone in the past 6 years, raising both funds to help keep programs free to families and awareness of camp in the region.


How long have you been a part of Comfort Zone? And what roles you’ve held?   
I have been part of Comfort Zone since 2009, and have been a Big Buddy, floater, and served in the Nurse/Paramedic Role, as well as helping out with several trainings (which I love doing!)


What first brought you to Comfort Zone Camp?
My introduction was through an e-mail someone "tossed out on the table." I contacted (Massachusetts’ Regional Development Officer) Sue Oppici and the rest is a wonderful history that continues to unfold.


What keeps you coming back?
The children, their resiliency, their compassion for each other, the selflessness of the other volunteers, the fact that with each camp experience I learn and grow as an adult in my own grief journey, and most importantly the hugs! There's no way to explain Comfort Zone Camp – you have to experience it. When I talk about Comfort Zone to others I try and convey how simply phenomenal these kids are and how much I've learned from them and continue to learn.


Everyone has the same reaction when they hear of a death, whether it's someone they know or not. When they hear that children were left behind, the reaction is even worse often times followed by "I wish there was something I could do." Well, now there is and I wish there was a way to reach more people. I know an awful lot of people who have said I wish I knew about Comfort Zone when my loved one died. Sadly death brings us all together and it will never end, but I am honored and proud to be a very tiny part of the bigger picture in someone’s grief journey.



Why should others get involved with Comfort Zone and hold their own fundraiser?
As far as fundraising with Comfort Zone, it doesn't get much easier. People can simply make a donation, or have a party, or anything else that you think people would enjoy. People don't need to give thousands of dollars – every penny helps.


My own kids and their friends have colored and sold rocks on the beach and donated what they take in, unsolicited by me or anyone else. When people hear that the donations will help a child, it tugs at their heart strings, specifically with regards to the polar plunge. When Tania called me after our first camp she said, “Let’s do a fundraiser." Without hesitation, I said, “Sure. What do you have in mind?”


She suggested a polar plunge. I had been doing a New Year’s Day swim with the fire department for years and told her that would be a lot of fun. We added the element of the after-swim gathering as a way for people to come together and hang out and quite honestly spend more money in the form of raffles and auctions.


I had no idea at the time that 5 years later we would still be doing this, nor did I expect to have the results we did. (This year’s event raised nearly $9,000.) People showed up, jumped in the Cape Cod Bay in February and the rest is history. It's always evolving, and changing, and I hope to continue for many years to come.


My dream would be that at one of our plunges (maybe the 10th) that we would have a representative from each Comfort Zone office join us. We just have to get through four more and the 10th anniversary will be epic.


Volunteering Beyond Camp


While each camp weekend needs at least 80 volunteers, there are many other opportunities to donate your time to Comfort Zone. Opportunities include serving on Volunteer Councils, Regional Advisory Councils and a variety of event committees.


Volunteers play important roles in planning events outside of camp such as our Grief Relief 5Ks, the Fall Bash and the Grief Relief Gala. Volunteers can also help at informational booths at community events, as well as serving on panels at volunteer training sessions in each region.


Volunteers can also help at each of our regional offices by taking inventory of camp supplies, loading the camp trailer, shredding materials and much more. 


Visit of our Volunteer page for more information about getting involved at camp and beyond! 

Volunteers trained for A Little Hope, Inc. partnership program


In the final weekend of May, Comfort Zone is launching a camp program in Connecticut in partnership with A Little Hope, Inc. - The National Foundation for Grieving Children, Teens and Families. This program is designed for families with children who have experienced the death by suicide of a parent, sibling or guardian.


On March 28, Comfort Zone National Community Facilitator Jessi Schmale lead a volunteer training session at New York Life’s headquarters in New York City, which included A Little Hope, Inc. Board members Rich Schimel, Tanhya Vancho, Keith Brenner and Jennifer Brenner as well as consultant and nationally known child and adolescent bereavement specialist Amy Liebman Rapp.


“We loved getting to know more about how Comfort Zone will impact the lives of children at the partnership camp in May,” Tanhya said. “Being a trained volunteer makes me realize even more how important this weekend will be to families.” 


We’re also excited to announce that this program will include a day-long parent and guardian workshop led by childhood bereavement consultant Pamela Gabbay, giving them the opportunity to share their experiences among peers who can relate to their loss, receive support, and learn how they can best support their children’s efforts to manage their grief in healthy ways


For more information about this program, click here to read our news release announcing the partnership. 

New date set for Grief Relief 5K in California

Save the date! The 5th Annual Grief Relief 5K will take place September 26 in California! Make sure you mark your calendars for this family fun event!


The 5K is a great way to get back into the bubble, meet others in the Comfort Zone community, and to help spread the word about Comfort Zone! If you are interested in being a part of the 5K Planning Committee, please email Justin Thongsavanh at [email protected]


More details will be coming this spring! 

Corporate Spotlight: Ferguson

This year’s Grief Relief Gala once again welcomed Ferguson as the presenting sponsor. Since 2006, Ferguson has supported Comfort Zone’s events and programs by giving more than $100,000.


Ferguson, headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, is the largest wholesale distributor of residential and commercial plumbing supplies and pipe, valves and fittings (PVF) in the U.S. It is also the fourth largest distributor of heating and cooling equipment (HVAC/R) and the second largest company within the waterworks industry.


Ferguson was founded in 1953 and now has more than 19,000 employees in more than 1,300 locations across the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Mexico. Giving back to Comfort Zone and other organizations each year is a big part of Ferguson’s mission.


“Our company has a unique culture and a tradition of supporting civic, cultural, educational and environmental activities,” Ferguson says on its website. Join us in thanking Ferguson for their support to grieving children.


Learn more about the company at www.ferguson.com

A special night at the 2015 Gala


This year's Grief Relief Gala presented by Ferguson on March 21 raised $250,000 in support of Comfort Zone programs for grieving children in 2015! A huge thank you goes out to everyone who made this happen.


Be sure to check out this year's guest speaker -- Abby Donelson -- above, who shared her Comfort Zone story. Following her speech, this year's Fund-A-Cause donations raised enough to fund an entire camp weekend program!


Abby also sent a special note to everyone on Monday:
To everyone who attended the Gala, Thank you so much. Because of your generosity, many, many kids are going to camp this year. I am forever grateful to you for that.




A special thanks also goes to this year's photographers Tina Thomas of TinaTakeMyPhoto.com and Carol Lane Stephenson. Check out these highlights:








Mother turned volunteer: It will change your life


Meet Kelly Ogden, a camper mother and new Comfort Zone volunteer in California!


How long have you been a volunteer for Comfort Zone, and what roles have you held?
This January was my first camp as a volunteer. I was a floater.


How did you first hear about Comfort Zone? 
When my husband died, a coworker mentioned a small article in Good Housekeeping Magazine. I did a bit of research and thought it sounded amazing. My 3 kids have all gone to camp and I really wanted to help in any way I could because of their amazingly positive experiences. Between my 3 kids, they have gone to 10 to camps.


What's your favorite part about camp weekend?
My favorite part of camp was to witness the almost instant bonds these scared kids achieve in such a short amount of time. They arrived unsure and frightened, and by Sunday morning, they don't want to leave the camp bubble. (And Stephan's sizzle, THAT was outstanding!)


What was the child's favorite thing about camp weekend? 
My kids say their favorite thing about camp were knowing and meeting other kids that are in similar or the extact same situations. There is something calming about knowing that you are not alone in this new life that was thrusted upon you... and the S'mores. Endless smores! 


Why should others get involved at Comfort Zone?
It will change your life! After the loss of their father to suicide, my children all felt a stigma and burdened. They went to camp (two of them very UNwillingly) and when I came to pick them up, they ALL were, for the first time since their fathers death, SMILING, HAPPY, LAUGHING ... acting like kids again. What an astonishing change in just under 48 hours! Don't give it a second thought to sending your kid(s) here.

Volunteer gains a second family

Meet Ashley Hardin, a North Carolina resident who has been involved with Comfort Zone for nearly 3 years as a volunteer and fundraiser! 


How long have you been a Comfort Zone volunteer, and how many camps have you done? What roles have you served?
I first got involved with Comfort Zone Camp in November 2012. To date, I have volunteered at 5 camps across North Carolina and Virginia as a Big Buddy and floater. I hope to grow that number soon! When I can't make it to camp, I try my best to stay involved in other ways like running and fundraising with the Grief Relief Team.


What’s the best part about being a Comfort Zone volunteer?
Seeing first-hand the impact you are making in someone else’s life. Over the course of a weekend, you witness each camper evolve and blossom in different ways. They begin to realize that they are not alone in their grief. With that they gain a lot of inner strength and self-confidence. To actively be part of that transformation is incredibly moving. There are no words to adequately describe that feeling of fulfillment.


How has Comfort Zone impacted your life?
Thanks to Comfort Zone, I learned to channel my grief in positive ways to help others through what I also experienced. In the process, I gained a second family. The people who make up the Comfort Zone community are the best, most selfless people that you will ever meet. No matter how my personal grief journey continues to evolve, I know my Comfort Zone Camp family is standing right next to me.


If someone was sitting on the fence on whether or not to become a volunteer, what would be the one thing you would tell them?
There are kids at camp that need you, so get there! I promise that volunteering with Comfort Zone will enrich your life in ways that you could never imagine.


If you'd like to nominate a Comfort Zone volunteer to feature on our blog and in our newsletters, email that person's name and why to Director of Communications David Hylton at [email protected]

Volunteers Needed To Plan Grief Relief 5K In Massachusetts

Wouldn’t it be great to help a grieving child attend Comfort Zone Camp?


We’re planning our annual Grief Relief 5K in Massachusetts ! Come be part of the planning team to make a difference in children’s lives. No experience with planning a 5K? No worries … we have all the tools you need.


This year's event will be Saturday Oct. 17 with many more details to come soon! Help a child learn how to grieve, heal and grow at Comfort Zone Camp. To be part of this amazing team, please contact Regional Development Officer Sue Oppici at (781) 756-4840 ext. 311  or [email protected].

Zumba class raises more than $2,000


Comfort Zone young adult camper and volunteer Jess Lavine recently held her second annual Zumba fundraising event for Comfort Zone in Massachusetts, this year bringing in more than $2,000.


Jess says that hosting this event has “brought together two of the most important communities in my life.”


With her friend Renae Nichols, the Zumba fundraiser has been held for both children and adults. The children’s portion includes dancing, games and limbo, while the adult class gets to experience dancing from six instructors in one night.


“Despite the snowy and slow commute,” Jess says about this year’s event, “everyone was smiling as they danced the night away for a good cause. Not only do the attendees get in a fun and high energy workout, they get to learn about Comfort Zone Camp too.”


Jess first came to Comfort Zone in 2013 as a young adult camper and has stayed involved because the experienced helped find a new “spark” in life following her mother’s death.


“My experience as a camper and now as a volunteer has continued to enrich my life,” she says. “Camp is a magical place full of love, support, healing and a whole bunch of fun.”


Jess says that she plans to continue fundraising so more children get to benefit from camp.


“I know how healing this program can be and I want to do everything possible to make sure other children and young adults get to experience it, too.”


Volunteers for Good Program Provides Funding to Comfort Zone


Dale Berry, Managing Partner of the Raleigh Office of New York Life presented Comfort Zone Camp a $2,500 Volunteers for Good grant in February.


New York Life volunteers have helped establish camp programs in North Carolina since 2011. Thanks to their volunteer hours and grants such as the Volunteers for Good initiative, Comfort Zone will have two camp programs in 2015.


“We are grateful to the New York Life Foundation for continuing to support our mission,” said Comfort Zone VP Mendi Nieters.


The Volunteers for Good Program recognizes and encourages the group efforts of New York Life’s employees, retirees and agents. To learn more, please visit www.newyorklifefoundation.org.


Volunteers needed in North Carolina

Did you know that Comfort Zone needs more than 80 volunteers for each camp weekend? As we expand in North Carolina to two weekend programs, we need even more volunteers!


A volunteer training session is coming up the evenings of March 24 and 26. Both 3-hour sessions are required for you to become a Comfort Zone volunteer. Click here to sign up. We are in high need of male and clinical volunteers. 


If you are already a trained volunteer, be sure to log into your Comfort Zone Camp profile to sign up for the next camp program, coming May 1. Volunteer roles include Big Buddies, nurses, Healing Circle Leaders and Assistants, floaters and much more. 


A second volunteer training session will be held Sept. 12. This will be a 6-hour training session. A second North Carolina camp will be held the weekend of Oct. 2


Volunteers are also needed at this year's Charity Golf Classic! Click here for more details on how you can help at this event. 


Volunteers needed to plan Grief Relief 5K in N.J.

Wouldn’t it be great to help a grieving child attend Comfort Zone Camp?


We’re planning our annual Grief Relief 5K in New Jersey! Come be part of the planning team to make a difference in children’s lives.  No experience with planning a 5K? No worries … we have all the tools you need.


This year's event will be Saturday, Oct. 10 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. Many more details to come soon! 


Help a child learn how to grieve, heal and grow at Comfort Zone Camp.  To be part of this amazing team, please contact Regional Development Officer Maria Darby at (201)914-0383 or [email protected].

Fore! Golf tournament returns Sept. 14

The Comfort Zone Charity Golf Classic returns Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, and we need you!  Golfing skills or knowledge are not a requirement. You only a passion for Comfort Zone and willingness to help! 


We have been fortunate to have a team of dedicated volunteers to launch this fundraiser for the last 4 years.  For our 2015 tournament, we are expanding the committee and are looking for individuals who have time and energy to join the team to make this our best tournament ever!  


We need help requesting raffle and auction items, organizing the auction, decorating the reception, selling sponsorship and day of support.  If you want to learn more or are interesting in helping, please contact our Committee Chair Mary Wolkomir at [email protected] or call 919-609-8222. 


Proceeds from the Comfort Zone Charity Golf Classic fund critical therapeutic programing in North Carolina. In 2015 we are expanding, offering two camp weekends and two volunteer training sessions.


Sponsorships and golf tickets will be on sell soon!  Watch our website and Facebook page for more details. 



Programs expand in North Carolina

A second camp weekend is coming to North Carolina in 2015. Thanks to the success of the past few years with a camp weekend in North Carolina, a second program has been added in October. 


Registration is open for camp weekend and volunteer training sessions. Click on the links below for more information. 


Volunteeer Training Sessions
Tuesday, March 24 and Thursday, March 26 -- Two 3-hour evening trainings, Location TBD
Saturday, Sept. 12 -- 6-hour training session, Location TBD


3-Day Camp Program
Friday, May 1 -- Camp Kanata, Wake Forest
Friday, Oct. 2 -- Camp Kanata, Wake Forest

"My Second Home"


Karina G. attended her first Comfort Zone Camp in 2012 when she was 15, very much still grieving the loss of her father. When Karina first found out that she would be attending the camp, she did not want to go.


“I thought it was just going to be a lot of sadness and people crying everywhere,” says Karina.


However, by the time she left the camp it was clear that going was one of the best decisions she has ever made.


“I just felt so safe and welcomed by everyone there and it was so nice to have other kids there that were going through the same things as me,” says Karina.


One of Karina’s most cherished memories of her camp experience was during a bonfire the camp had. During the bonfire there is a moment of silence, while one person sings the song, “It’s OK to Remember.”


“During that time, I think about all the times my dad and I use to share and knowing that it’s ok and he is in a better place,” says Karina. “This is not a goodbye, it’s an I’ll see you later.”


With her Comfort Zone Camp experience having such a positive impact on her life, Karina has decided to give back. She is now a Big Buddy for Comfort Zone assisting children during the camp weekends manage and cope with their grief just as she was helped a few years ago.


“Throughout my life, I have always wanted to help children and I know this camp makes a positive impact on these kids,” says Karina.  “I don’t just consider it a weekend camp I go to, I now call it my second home.”

Registration list coming in 2015

If you are registering a child for a Comfort Zone Camp program in 2015 or yourself for a young adult program, a new and simpler, registration list is replacing what we formerly called a waiting list.


When you fill out an application to attend a camp in your region, your child’s name will now be placed on a new Registration List. Starting 10-12 weeks before a camp program begins, you will be notified if your child is eligible attend the upcoming camp. 


Camp registrations are dependent on a variety of factors, including the number of applications and volunteer resources available.


This new process eliminates the need to reapply for a camp program later in the year if the dates that you selected are not available. If, for example, there is not space or resources available for your child at a camp in May, your child’s name is placed on the list for eligibility to attend the next camp program scheduled for your region.


It is also possible that if you register for a camp for later in 2015, your child may be eligible to attend camp earlier in the year based on space and resources.  We may reach out to you if your child is eligible for an earlier camp program.

"One of the most profound experiences of my life"


This past fall, several RiverFront Investment Group employees attended a Comfort Zone volunteer training session and then proceeded to give back their time at camp in Virginia.


RiverFront’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Peter Quinn, was among those employees, serving as a Big Buddy.


“It gave us a wonderful opportunity to put our corporate values into tangible action,” Peter said. “It also brought us close together as people. Working next to the decicated staff at Comfort Zone and seeing them in action taught us a lot about teamwork.”


A slogan on RiverFront’s website is evidence of the company’s teamwork: “We’d like to work with you because, like a river, it might lead to something big.”


For Peter, working work Comfort Zone has led to something much bigger than he ever expected.


“My opportunity to serve as a Big Buddy was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” he said. “It’s difficult to put that into words.”


If you’d like to join Comfort Zone Camp next year as a volunteer, click here to check out training sessions coming up across the country in January!  


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