The first thing you notice about Heather Young is her smile. She has a warm and inviting presence that seems to radiate to those around her, which fits in perfectly in her capacity as a Camp Nabi and Phoenix Rising Big Buddy. This is what the Chesapeake Life Center calls each adult volunteer who will be by one camper’s side through the weekend.
Heather first attended the camp when she was 5. She, her brother and her sister were sent by her grandparents after their mother killed their father.
That in a nutshell is why our children’s bereavement camps are so important. It is remarkable that one day, a little girl who experienced such a violent life-changing loss could become this joyful woman who looks forward to each summer when she can be a Big Buddy to a child experiencing similar loss.
Though it is hard to remember things that happened in your life when you were 5, Heather can share specific memories from Camp Nabi. She remembers canoeing and making picture blankets. She remembers a spider web activity that encouraged campers to share. “I remember that night vividly, because it brought our group closer together,” Heather said. “We were going through the same feelings. I was a shy, quiet little girl. Camp helped to bring me out of my shell.
She also remembers her Big Buddy. “If I ever had a question, I knew she was always there for me.”
Each year, we receive a number of generous donations and grants in support of our Chesapeake Kids program, which includes the camps as well as family-centered counseling and grief support, year-round drop-in groups and special activities. With the financial support of The Wilburn Company, DataLink Interactive, Porsche of Annapolis, M&T Bank, The George Preston Marshall Foundation, Charter Financial Group and other businesses and individuals, we are able to provide partial or full scholarships so many underserved children can attend.
We are grateful to have over 75 trained volunteers like Heather actively involved in delivering this program to as many as 50 children and teenagers. We incorporated a family transition program on the final day of camp in 2016 so that when the adults take their children home, they understand some of the language and interventions their children have learned and can continue these healing practices after camp.
Heather now works with Phoenix Rising, the teen side of the camp, and also volunteers for our monthly teen grief support group. Her welcoming approach helps teens feel comfortable in sharing their stories at camp. They know she understands exactly where they are coming from.
“All of the cliques just go away,” Heather said. “The first year I did Phoenix, one boy who was kind of nerdy and another boy who was a jock become best of buds. They let their guard down because they have been through that situation. They both suffered a loss that turned their world upside. They were there for each other to help put it right side up again.”
Click here to read about Heather as featured in the Capital-Gazette.
Click here for details about our children’s bereavement camps.
Click here for the application for our children’s bereavement camps.