IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — Usually, it’s the kids who get nervous going to summer camp. But at Camp Erin Denver, it’s the grown-ups and volunteers who are anxious.

They have a big responsibility: helping grieving kids cope with a death loss in childhood.

Over the weekend, Camp Erin Denver held its 10th annual grief camp at Shwayder Camp near Idaho Springs.

“That puts us at serving over 500 campers and their families over the past 10 years,” volunteer director Sara Chadil told FOX31.

Campers spend 48 hours in the Colorado mountains, connecting with nature and taking part in grief management exercises and activities.

“Trying to heal from it,” Scarlett, 7, told FOX31. She’s remembering her dad, who died last year.

“For a few days I was staying with some other people, and he just didn’t make it,” she said.

Three young boys skip rocks in a pond at Camp Granite Lake in Coal Creek Canyon. The boys attended Camp Erin Denver 2019, a grief camp for kids who’ve suffered a family death loss. (KDVR)

Grief goes with kids as they develop

All of the campers are trying to heal from a loss that doesn’t seem fair for a young person to have to deal with.

“Lot of dad deaths by suicide. They are not easy deaths that we get here,” said Barb Kamlet, director of Camp Erin Denver and executive director of Shimmering Wings, the Colorado nonprofit that hosts Camp Erin. The grief camps are held in cities around the country.

“Kids have a way of coming in and out of their grief as they’re growing up, and so they might be crying one second, and out playing the next second. That doesn’t mean they’re done with their grief. It’s going to go with them developmentally,” Kamlet said.

Kids come with heavy hearts but leave with a sense of camaraderie.

“I thought I was the only one, and I couldn’t talk to anybody about it, because no one had understand what I felt, because everyone has their dad that hasn’t done anything to themselves,” said Gaby, 9, who was remembering her father.

“Forty-five kids are going to go away from this today, knowing they’re not alone,” Kamlet said. “Knowing they can feel their feelings and they can talk about their person. Yeah, grateful I get to do this.”

Shimmering Wings is already planning next year’s camp and is looking for volunteers. If you’d like to donate money to send a child to grief camp, there’s a donation page on the Shimmering Wings website.