COAL CREEK CANYON, Colo. — Fifty-three Colorado kids with a tragic bond spent the weekend at grief camp.
Camp Erin Denver hosted the children, each of whom have suffered a death in their family. The causes of death vary, but at this year’s camp, suicide was a common thread.
“Forty-five percent of our campers who are here right now have either a suicide or an overdose death. In one of the cabins, 70 percent have had a suicide or overdose death,” said Barb Kamlet, camp director and executive director of Shimmering Wings, the Colorado non-profit that organizes Camp Erin Denver.
One camper named Landon lost his father to suicide 19 months ago.
“He’s missed every time we see a truck like he used to drive, every meal we enjoy that he loved, every time my kids hear the word ‘daddy,’ every night when I close my eyes and the right side of my bed is empty,” said Heather Espinosa, Landon’s mother.
Many of the volunteers can relate to the grieving children because they suffered a childhood death loss too. Like Nathan Smith of Denver, who lost his mother in a car accident when he was 9 years old.
“I just realize how normal I was when I went through it,” Smith said. “There’s not a magic pill and there’s… nothing that can short cut it. If I could go back to my 9-year-old self, I’d just give him a hug.”
Camp Erin was started by former Colorado Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer and child advocate Karen Phelps Moyer. It’s now part of the Eluna Network, the largest bereavement program for children and teens grieving the death of someone close to them.
Locally, the camp is run by Shimmering Wings, which offers grief support and education to people of all ages.
To volunteer for the next Camp Erin, to donate money to send more kids to camp, or to enroll your child for the next grief camp, visit the Shimmering Wings website.