Sioux Falls Argus Leader
15-year-old sets up camp for
Slayton, Minn., girl secures
directors, donors for Camp Love's Embrace
TV personality Katie Couric
changed Whitney Buesgens' life.
And the 15-year-old
Minnesota girl hopes to have the same effect on others.
Buesgens and her mother,
Lori, were watching The Today Show one
morning last spring when Couric reported on an East Coast grief camp
for children who lost a loved one on Sept. 11, 2001.
A hospice volunteer since
she was 7, Whitney Buesgens had seen others
go through grief. An overnight camp for children dealing with
sorrow struck her as valuable.
But a little quick research
showed her that children in this area had to travel to Des Moines or
Denver for such an experience.
That's no longer true.
This May, Camp Love's
Embrace will offer its first overnight grief camp
for children, almost entirely through Buesgens' efforts. She
selected a board of directors, found an established camp that would
open its doors to such a program, created a brochure explaining the
camp's purpose and raised enough funds to offer the camp free of charge
Now Buesgens, a sophomore at
Murray County Central High School in
Slayton, is seeking children to attend Camp Love's Embrace and mentors
to offer them one-on-one attention.
She's hoping for 20 kids and
"We figure roughly it will
cost about $2,100 for the camp," Buesgens
says. "It should cost about $110 per kid, and we're hoping
will have to pay."
Sally Berg, elementary
principal for Murray County Central School,
serves on the board of directors. She had no qualms about the
project's success based on her knowledge of Buesgens' resourcefulness.
"By the time she asked me to
join the board, she had the initial
brochures together," Berg says. "I knew what Whitney is like,
when she has a good idea one day, it won't be forgotten the next."
Camp Love's Embrace will
combine time to deal with grief with time to
just be a kid and take advantage of the camp's outdoor activities.
The children will be able to
express their grief through art, music,
play, a "healing circle" and rituals, Buesgens says. Each
will be encouraged to talk about the person they are mourning - parent,
grandparent, sibling, friend - and create a memory book.
"And they'll have times to
be kids," Buesgens says.
with quieter times echoes the process of
grief, says Greg Wasberg, a licensed family therapist in Worthington,
Minn., who also serves on the camp's board.
"You can't just put your
life on hold and go through the whole
experience," he says. "Nor can you just simply not grieve and
back to work like everything is normal. You grieve, you do
everyday things, you stop and grieve for a while again. It's
time to feel the loss."
Sometimes, children are
hesitant to share their emotions with a parent, fearful of evoking the
adult's grief, Wasberg says.
"Kids can be enormously
sensitive to parents' emotions and feelings and
would be very careful to tiptoe around that," he says.
not always the healthiest way to go about that."
The volunteer mentor's role
is to be a listener, Berg says.
"With this camp, it will be
a mixture of lots of laughter and some tears," she says.
More than 45 businesses and
individuals have contributed toward the
camp. Some have given goods such as soft drinks.
Wave, a telecommunications firm, donated $110 to sponsor a camper.
To contact the potential
donors, Buesgens turned to her mother and her
grandparents, Donald and Fern Staples of Slayton. She also is
daughter of Daniel Buesgens of Slayton.
"She doesn't drive yet,"
Lori Buesgens says. "So Grandpa and Grandma took turns
driving her places."
Not driving is about the
only thing Buesgens doesn't do.
Buesgens, who will be 16 in April, participates in
choir, speech, cross-country, golf, Spanish Club and Students Against
Destructive Decisions and is active in the United Methodist Church in
She began volunteering at
the Murray County Hospice after hearing a
speaker at church. One of the hospice patients was a blind
who loved to be read to. Seven-year-old Buesgens had just
to read fluently.
"So it all worked out," she
Reach Jill Callison at
331-2307 or firstname.lastname@example.org