Marshall Independent Newspaper
The Camp That Heals
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
By Cindy Votruba
Independent Staff Writer
SLAYTON - It was a news
segment on The Today Show that encouraged
Whitney Buesgens of Slayton to do something for children who have
experienced the pain of losing a loved one.
The Murray County Central
sophomore has spent the last year planning
and organizing a grief camp for children, Camp Love's
The first camp weekend is May 3-4 at the Lakota Retreat Center on Lake
Shetek. Buesgens is the camp's founder and serves as the
board president. Camp Love's Embrace is designed for kids
6-14 who have lost a parent, grandparent, sibling or close friend.
Campers will be paired up with a "big buddy" for the weekend.
The camp is free for those
who wish to attend. Campers will
participate in a number of activities - a scavenger hunt, bonfire,
ice-breaker games, making a memory book, canoeing, sports, healing
circles, deejay music and a balloon release.
Buesgens' plan to start a
grief camp for children started more than a
year-and-a-half ago, when the nation was hit with one of its biggest
tragedies. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Buesgens was
watching The Today Show with Katie Couric. Couric
interviewing a representative of a grief camp on the East Coast.
"I looked into it, and I
realized there's camps on both coasts, but a significant lack in the
Midwest," Buesgens said.
Buesgens contacted a local
grief counselor and asked about starting a grief camp.
"And with her help and
support, I just started," Buesgens said.
Buesgens also started
contacting colleges that had masters of social
work programs, looking for mentors from their student base.
college students would be volunteers at the camp.
"I started going to Kiwanis,
Women of Today, local civic groups to look for donations and
contributions," Buesgens said.
About 45 to 50 businesses
and organizations have already pledged their support, Buesgens said.
Buesgens also put together a
brochure for the camp, detailing the
camp's activities and mission. According to the brochure,
"Grieving children often feel very isolated because they rarely know
anyone their age who has experienced the death of a family member or
someone very close to them. And their parents - their primary
source of emotional support - are grieving the same death.
Children see their parents sad or crying and fear that, by
sharing their own pain with them, they will make their parents even
more sad. So they become protective of their parents and keep
their feelings to themselves."
Buesgens said the camp will
help the children work through their grief
by sharing their feelings and stories with "old and new friends."
"The realization that grief
is OK, that it's OK to be sad and that
there are other kids who are going through the same thing," Buesgens
Buesgens is also involved
with her church, United Methodist Church,
serving as the youth coordinator for the administrative board.
coordinator, she leads the UNICEF drives, helps with Bible school and
assists with ditch clean-up.
Buesgens also volunteers at
the Murray County Hospice's "Our House," something she has been doing
since she was seven.
"I talk to the people, read
stories if they like, kind of chat with them, tell them what it's like
outside," Buesgens said.
Murray County Central
Elementary Principal Sally Berg, serves as the
vice-president of the camp's board of directors. Berg said
when a student proposes an idea with so much work, it sometimes may be
difficult to get off the ground. But, knowing Buesgens and
work ethic, she knew that the camp would work out.
"She follows through very
well," Berg said.
At first, the camp was going
to take place next spring, Berg said, but plans worked out earlier.
"It really looked like it
was a go," Berg said.
Buesgens did a lot of the
groundwork for the camp - checking rental
prices and the members on the board have helped Buesgens with financial
and practical advice on helping with kids' needs, Berg said.
Although a lot of her time
has been devoted to Camp Love's Embrace,
Buesgens is also involved with cross-country, Spanish, basketball,
SADD, choir, speech, playing the piano. She is currently on the
school's golf team.
"She's always been a
high-functioning student," Berg said.
Buesgens said they're hoping
to pair up 20 kids with 20 mentors. She also would like to
have the camp annually.
"We're almost done, we're
still looking for more volunteers and kids," Buesgens said. "It's
getting closer to being filled."