A fun and safe place for grieving children.

New York Life Foundation Grants $3,000,000 To Comfort Zone Camp

New York Life Foundation Grants $3,000,000 To Comfort Zone Camp 

 

Grant Helps Expand Services For Grieving Children, An Underserved Need

 

Richmond, VA, November 5, 2008 – The New York Life Foundation and Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) announced that CZC was awarded a three year $3,000,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation to extend the reach of Comfort Zone’s services and help raise the issue of grieving children to a national concern.  CZC will stay headquartered in Virginia, but the grant will help CZC expand to five regional sites including New Jersey, California, and Boston with a total of 38 camps by the end of 2010, serving more than 2,400 children age 7-18, each year. 

 

The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events a child can face and unfortunately it is not a rare occurrence. One in seven children experiences the loss of a parent or sibling or close relative by the age of 10.

 

Experts have shown that bereaved children, without the benefit of a healthy support system, are at risk.  In fact, one child in five who have experienced the death of a parent is likely to develop psychiatric disorders.  In the year following bereavement, children commonly display grief and distress; and emotional and behavior difficulties are often reported. In addition, studies show that youth who experience the sudden death of a parent report significantly more depressive, anxious, and disruptive behaviors than their nonbereaved peers.

 

“The support from the New York Life Foundation will allow our organization to increase awareness, education and services to youth, their families and communities affected by loss.  The need for these resources is great and the impact is often life-changing,” said Lynne Hughes, founder and CEO of Comfort Zone Camp.  “This partnership of New York Life and Comfort Zone Camp will allow for more grieving children across the country to get back to being kids again while they begin the healing process.”

 

“Comfort Zone Camp is making a very real difference in the lives of children and families from all economic and cultural backgrounds affected by a loss.  We are proud to help Comfort Zone Camp grow to serve more kids who are grieving and to be a national voice for this issue,” said Chris Park, president, New York Life Foundation.  

 

Comfort Zone currently offers children ten weekend camps and one week-long camp in Virginia, three weekend camps in northern New Jersey, and one in southern California.  Currently each camp serves approximately 60 children, ages 7-18.  These children come from a variety of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds.  More than one-third of the children are minority.

 

The Camps combine grief counseling with traditional camp activities.  Each camp ends with a memorial service with the camper’s surviving parent/guardian in attendance.  The children may sing a song, read a poem, or perform a dance with their cabin mates in honor of their loved ones.  Another unique aspect of Comfort Zone Camp is the one-to-one pairing of children (“little buddies”) to adults (“big buddies”).  

 

Many children come to camp “attention-starved,” as surviving parents or guardians are understandably preoccupied with their own grief.  The big buddies serve as the campers’ anchors, mentors and friends.  “Bigs” are screened and trained in grief counseling techniques and carefully matched with campers of the same gender who share the same interests.

 

The little and big buddies are divided based on the camper’s age into smaller groups called “healing circlesSM.”  These are 90-minute support groups held at different times during the camp, led by volunteer licensed grief therapists who assist children in identifying the emotions associated with the loss of a loved one.  The Healing Circles are designed to help the children identify and express emotions and give them coping tools to help them once they leave camp.  

 

In addition to the big buddies, volunteer roles include therapists, arts and crafts helpers, musicians, camp nurses, recreational assistants, and youth mentors.  Camps are staffed by about 90 trained and screened volunteers.  Currently CZC has more than 1,000 volunteer positions, adding up to more than 60,000 volunteer hours per year.

 

About Comfort Zone Camps

 

The mission of CZC is to “offer bereaved children the opportunity to remember their loved ones in a safe and healing camp environment.”  Since its founding, CZC has held 71 camps and served more than 3,300 children.  To date, campers have come to camps from 37 states and Canada.  Comfort Zone has become the largest bereavement camp program in the country.  

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