Tracy Headlight Herald
Teen has grown-up goals to help
Buesgens, speaking to the Tracy Kiwanis Club last week.
By Seth Schmidt
Whitney Buesgens has many
interests of a typical teen.
The 15-year-old likes to go
shopping, watch movies, and hang out with
friends. The Slayton sophomore plays basketball, runs
cross-country, and plays the piano. Whitney works hard to
her grades up at school, participates in speech and is active in her
church youth group.
But she is a young woman on
a mission. Since last year, Whitney
has devoted hundreds of hours to organizing a camp for grieving
children. Thanks largely to her efforts, "Camp Love's
will be held at the Lakota Retreat Center on Lake Shetek May 3-4, 2003.
"I am very, very excited
about the camp," she says. "It's like watching a dream come
to life and become your reality."
Camp Love's Embrace is an
overnight camp for children 6-14 who are
experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one, such as a sibling,
mother, father, grandparent, or friend. Children at the camp
be treated to fun recreational activities while also being paired with
a trained "Big Buddy." The mentor's job will be to listen to
child's story and help them remember their loved one and grieve.
The idea for Camp Love's
Embrace came to Whitney in the aftermath of
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of terrorism against the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. News reports of children who had lost one
both parents in the attacks deeply touched her.
"Like the rest of America, I
ached for them and wished I could do
something to relieve their pain," she remembers. The she saw
news story about a children's grief camp that was offering free
weekends for the children of Sept. 11.
"That sparked my interest
because I had never even heard of a
children's grief camp. So I started to research what they
were. I discovered that there were many such camps on either
coast but very few in the Midwest."
To help lay the groundwork
for the camp in Minnesota, Whitney contacted
every college in Minnesota that offers a Masters Degree in social
work. The lead professor at Mankato State University was
impressed enough to invite Whitney to speak at a state meeting for
Licensed Social Workers. Whitney also spoke with professors
Augustana College in Sioux Falls, the University of Sioux Falls, North
American Baptist Seminary, and South Dakota State University.
Word began to
spread. People and organizations started giving
money. People offered to help. A non-profit
was formed. Adults offered to serve on the Board of Directors.
Whitney feels that children
who lose loved ones often have many unmet
emotional needs. Often grieving children become isolated
they often don't know anyone their age who has experienced a similar
loss. If their parents are also grieving, children may not
to share their feelings for fear of making their parents more
sad. She feels it is vital that a grieving child be able to
their experience with peers who have suffered a similar loss.
Some of her feelings about
childhood grief are drawn from volunteer work at the Murray County
Hospice's "Our House."
"I have seen and talked to
children there, who were visiting their
grandparents or loved one, and I realized the need for these children
to have a way to experience and deal with their grief." She
remembers how she felt when she was 11, when her mother needed heart
"I remember all too well the
fear and unknown of what I would do without my mom."
She's looking forward to the
first Camp Love's Embrace, which she wants
to be completely free to any child who wants to attend. If
can get enough donations, Whitney says Camp Love's Embrace will be the
only free independent grief support camp for children in Minnesota this
"All of us have times in our
lives when we need someone else to be
strong for us and to support," she says. "The problem is, we
never know when that time will be. We all need to help one
another by doing whatever we can, because non of us know when we will
be the one who needs the comfort and support."
She feels good about how
camp plans are unfolding.
"I am doing what I can right
now, and that feels very, very good."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The treasurer for Camp
Love's Embrace is Janet Voges, chief cashier,
Minnesota Bank South, Slayton. Sally Berg, principal at
County Central Elementary School, is the organization's Vice President.
Whitney, the camp founder,
was given the honor of being President of Camp Love's Embrace Board of