Attend Camp Encourage just once and it could change your life forever. This is how Abigail Jutte of Ft. Recovery feels. Abigail has been volunteering at Camp Encourage as a camp buddy and group leader for the past few years, but she has been involved with camp since she was just a child. She first attended camp at the age of five. Her mother had heard about State of the Heart Care’s then Camp Bearable within their community and decided to sign Abigail up to attend. After her first year, Abigail continued to attend camp throughout her entire childhood.
As a child, she recalls how hard it was living in a small town and not having many people to connect with that could relate to losing a loved one. Camp Bearable, now known as Camp Encourage, allowed her to realize she wasn’t the only one who had lost a parent, and opened up the door for her to make many new friends that she could share similar feelings and memories with. To this day Abigail is still friends with several of those same campers.
When looking back on some of her favorite memories of attending camp as a child, Abigail specifically remembers the balloon launch held during camp and receiving small keepsake items that she still has to this day. Abigail shared that those activities and topics demonstrated during camp helped her learn coping mechanisms she could use throughout her grieving process.
“When you are five you don’t realize what death is, but camp helped with feelings of loneliness.” Camp also taught her it was normal to feel angry, sad, or upset and provided tools on how to manage those feelings, such as using breathing techniques. Abigail said it is important for youth that have experienced or been affected by a loss to attend camp to learn these habits and to see “they aren’t the only kid in the world to have close losses in the family.”
Abigail, now a teacher’s aide at St. Marys, knew she wanted to remain involved with camp for years to come since attending as a camper had left such a huge impact on her life. This year marks her 5th year as being a camp volunteer. When asked why she wanted to come back as a volunteer Abigail stated she wanted to “truly give back to camp for what they gave me. Helping kids is my passion and this had one of the biggest impacts on my life.”
She also enjoys volunteering because of the opportunity it gives her to pay it forward and help as many kids as she can through this process, maybe seeing some of the campers come back one day as volunteers themselves. To Abigail, Camp Encourage is humbling and she wants to stay involved with it as long as she can.
She said it best when she explained what Camp Encourage means to her:
“Family. Although only one weekend, it is a family for a lifetime. It’s a safe place to let feelings out and a place to feel loved and accepted.”
Camp Encourage continues to strive to bring the children it serves the resources they need to fully express themselves and know that they are not alone in their grief. Our camp began in 2000 with 15 children and over the past eighteen years, we have served more than 730 youth in our communities.
If you have any questions or would like more information regarding attending or volunteering for Camp Encourage please click here to visit our website or give us a call at 800-417-7535. Ashlee Slavin, Camp Director or Sarah DePoy, Assistant Camp Director would be happy to speak with you.