Jessica Disque, 19, fondly remembers her grandma’s smile and her grandpa’s participation in her day-to-day life.
Both grandparents passed away when Disque was a child but she recalls the comfort and understanding she received by attending Memories Matter Bereavement Camp.
This year’s camp is set for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the National Guard Armory at the Expo Grounds just west of Great Bend.
Golden Belt Home Health & Hospice (GBHH&H) created the camp and directs it every year for children ages 5-12 who are dealing with the loss of a loved one. The event is free of charge.
GBHH&H is part of the St. Rose Health Center/Hays Medical Center family; St. Rose and HaysMed are part of The University of Kansas Health System.
“Memories Matter helped me relieve some of the sadness that had built up,” recalled Disque, a Great Bend High School graduate. “I didn’t know my grandma too well but she was special to me in many ways.
“I was only 3 years old when she died but I remember she had a smile on her face no matter what was going on.”
Disque’s memories of her grandpa are clearer; he passed away four days before her 10thbirthday.
“He was so special to me because wherever he went, I went,” she commented. “Papa was my best friend.”
Disque attended Memories Matter for three years as a child and has served as a student volunteer. “I wanted to help other kids,” she said. “I would recommend it to other families because it helped me understand others were going through the same feelings.”
Donita Wolf, GBHH&H manager, noted that even though the camp is designed for young children, a high school student who has lost a loved one may benefit from serving as a volunteer.
“Even if they are now teenagers, Memories Matter can be helpful,” Wolf said. “We can all learn about grief at any age.”
For the first time, the camp will be held at the Armory, which offers lots of indoor and outdoor space for activities. These include music, art projects, games, a puppet show and the creation of memory boxes to hold mementos of the loved one.
“The Armory personnel have been really accommodating,” Wolf said. “They are going out of their way to make us feel welcome.”
In addition to regular activities, campers will learn about the military vehicles and equipment at the Armory. The facility also has a gymnasium, classrooms and kitchen.
In the past, the camp was held in September. Camp organizers hope the April date will be better for family schedules and school counselors, who collaborate with GBHH&H for the camp.
“We want to accommodate as many families as we can because Memories Matter is important for grieving children,” Wolf said. “They will discover they are not alone in their grief.
“Children are often the forgotten mourners,” she continued. “A death brings emotions and adjustments, and we can offer ways to cope. It is a heavy burden for children but they learn their feelings are a reflection of the love they have for the person. This has a profound impact.”
In addition to Wolf, organizers include Larry Schumacher, GBHH&H chaplain; Cathy Soeken, GBHH&H social worker; John Grummon, former GBHH&H chaplain; and Sheryl Neeland, USD 428 counselor.
For more information or to register, contact GBHH&H by calling 620-792-8171 or stop by the office on St. Rose’s first floor.