Worthington Daily Globe
Love is breaking through in
Buesgens, creator of Camp Love's Embrace, stands in her home with a
promotional display she made.
By Ryan McGaughey
SLAYTON - It takes only a
few minutes with Whitney Buesgens to realize she isn't your typical
Then, as she begins to
discuss the new grief camp she's worked to
establish, it becomes even clearer that this teen possesses a maturity
far beyond her chronological age.
Buesgens recently founded
Camp Love's Embrace, devoted to helping
children ages 6-14 who have experienced the loss of a loved one, is in
the process of raising money and recruiting both kids and adult
mentors. The free camp will be held May 3-4 at Lakota Retreat
Center, located on Lake Shetek in Slayton.
Watching television one
morning last spring, Buesgens was stricken with
a news story on NBC's Today Show on a similar camp in New
"They were doing an
interview with a representative from that camp, and
talking about how they were holding special weekends for children of
9-11," said Buesgens, explaining that youth who lost family members or
loved ones in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were being helped by the
"I thought it was really
interesting. After looking into it, I
realized there weren't any camps like that in this area," she added.
Buesgens got on the Internet
and researched available resources in the
region. She also spoke to her mother, who confirmed the camp
a good idea, and proceeded to contact a local social worker and grief
counselor to obtain more feedback.
"When she (counselor)
thought it was a very good idea to offer this to
grieving families, I knew I had the support behind me," Buesgens said.
The counselor, who Buesgens
stated didn't wish to be identified, helped
assemble a list of names for a Board of Directors. In
Buesgens called a meeting and her board was formed, setting the stage
for the next big chore: fund raising.
Buesgens said she had
already approached various municipalities about
financial donations before the board was created, and that she was
usually referred to community civic groups and businesses.
has received several donations from Kiwanis groups as well as the
Slayton Women of Today, and has also gotten monetary support from The
Schwan Food Co., Marshall.
"I've been doing all the
fund-raising myself," Buesgens explained.
"I have my little speech, and I give it and answer whatever
questions there are. I've raised about $2,200 so far."
She hopes to ultimately
raise $2,500, "or maybe a little more," for the
camp, which is billed on its promotional flier as "a place where
grieving kids can grieve and embrace the love they've lost."
weekend will include the creation of memory books, one-on-one time with
a "big buddy" (mentor), a healing circle for group sharing and a
balloon-release ceremony, as well as fun activities such a dance,
bonfire, scavenger hunt and other games.
Buesgens also said a
physician will be on hand to answer any lingering
questions children may have about, for example, an illness a family
member may have died from.
"We hope to have this
annually," she said. "If there are a bunch
of kids, we'll look at having it twice a year instead of one time."
Buesgens, a sophomore at
Murray County Central High School, has been
volunteering since the age of 7. She is also active in a
of activities - cross country, basketball, golf, choir, Students
Against Destructive Decisions, Spanish Club and Speech Club - and
carries a 4.0 grade point average. She attends Slayton United
Methodist Church and plays music there.
"I think this camp is just
kind of important - and I'd like to offer
something back to a community that's given me so much," Buesgens said.
"I never know when I may be the one who's going to need
from my community."
While she's certainly done a
lot on her own, Buesgens points out she
couldn't have done what she has with the camp without the help of her
mother and grandparents. After all, she isn't old enough to
yet, and needs rides everywhere.
Buesgens is still seeking
children, mentors and funding for the camp.
Mentors must be at least 19 years of age, and each will be
subject to a criminal background check.