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Camp Love's Embrace
Giving children a chance to grieve

Slayton Area Women of Today
The Slayton Area Women of Today donated $750.00 to Camp Love's Embrace.  On hand to receive the check was founder and chairperson of the Board of Directors, Whitney Buesgens.  Left to right were, Kate Harmsen, Kari Schreier, Carla Goedke, Linda Sanow, Buesgens, Amy Ruppert, Sue Schreier, and Shelly Lewis.

By JoAnn Biren

Whitney Buesgens, a sophomore at Murray County Central, was only too happy to talk about a project that she was inspired to bring to this area.

Camp Love's Embrace, Buesgens explained, basically came to her when she saw Katie Couric on The Today Show talk about such a camp on the east coast that helped children who suffered the loss of loved ones, a direct result of the 9-11 bombings.

There was a problem though, once Buesgens started to delve into finding information on how to start such a camp here in southwest Minnesota.

"We would have had to pay a lot of money to become affiliated," she said between classes on Monday.  "I decided I thought I could start my own camp."

Start it she did.  The idea took root when Buesgens approached others in the community and the idea took on a life of its own, soon to open this spring as Camp Love's Embrace at Shetek Lutheran Ministries on Lake Shetek.

"Camp Love's Embrace," Buesgens explained, "is an overnight camp for children ages 6-14 experiencing grief related to the loss of a loved one."  The camp will focus on the children in the tri-state area of Minnesota, South Dakota, and northern Iowa.

This camp is going to be free, because according to Buesgens, children should not have to be turned away because of the cost.

Geared to children from six to 14, Buesgens already is watching the camp come together.  She, along with a board of directors who include Buesgens, the camp founder and President of the organization; Sally Berg, elementary school principal is the Vice President; Janet Voges, chief cashier at Minnwest Bank South is the treasurer; Greg Wasberg, a licensed family therapist with Southwestern Mental Health; Marti Engelkes, a licensed social worker at Hospice of Murray County; and Jackie Lanoue, a licensed social worker with Nobles County.

"I asked certain people if they would like to help," Buesgens said, "and, it just grew.  It is starting to come together now."

According to Buesgens, the camp will be using a big brother-big sister concept, with an older person acting one on one with a grieving camper.  Each camper's mentor will be at least 19 years of age and will have a criminal background check coordinated by the Murray County Sheriff's Department.

Come together might just be an understatement.  The camp is set for the first campers on May 3 and 4.

"Children will be given the opportunity to express their grief through art, music, play, and healing time," Buesgens said.  "They are encouraged to talk about the person they have lost, and share stories of their loved one."

Greg Wasberg, one of the board members said it was easy to say yes to Buesgens when she called and asked for his involvement.  "It sounded like such a good idea, a good program," he said.

He admits that this is an enormous undertaking for a sophomore in high school, but that Buesgens has done her homework.  "This is a huge task," he said, "but she (Buesgens) has handled it quite well.  It is ready to go, judging by the amount of work put into it up front," he said.

"There is clearly a demand for this type of program," Wasberg went on.  "Whitney and the other board members have put a lot of work into this and I am just riding on the coat tails of everyone else."

The program is set.  Camp Love's Embrace is ready for the first of the campers this spring.

For more information, contact Buesgens at Camp Love's Embrace

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