Family Bereavement Retreat Program
Camp Kerry Society
On average, 35,000 people die each year in BC and at least 175,000 family members (including children) are affected by those deaths. Research indicates that both mental health and daily functioning of children, youth and families can be negatively impacted for a lengthy period of time following a significant loss. Resources within the health care system for this vulnerable population group are extremely limited and this gap in service prompted the development, in 2007, of a unique family bereavement retreat program called Camp Kerry. The mandate of Camp Kerry is to foster a “compassionate community” of hope and belonging for those who are bereaved.
Camp Kerry is unique in caring for entire families, as opposed to most mental health and medical services that focus on the individual. While these services are also valuable, Camp Kerry identified a need to address the impact that a death has on all members of a family unit. It is the only program of its type in Canada, with programs that encompass education, support and counselling services delivered through a range of innovative formats, including family retreats.
Camp Kerry family retreats are intensive, four-day experiences. Children, youth, parents and grandparents come together to meet other families who can understand and relate to their pain. Grief counsellors and volunteers support bereaved families to learn new coping strategies, create positive new memories, renew their self-confidence and find a sense of hope and renewal. The program incorporates expressive arts therapies, counselling support and adventure-based therapies in a retreat setting, which address the myriad ways people of different ages respond to grief and helps to build connections within and between families.
Over the years, Camp Kerry has grown and diversified its program to accommodate participants of multiple cultural backgrounds and religions, incorporating Indigenous, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim rituals. Satisfaction with the family retreat program is very high, as evidenced by testimonials and collected data from participants and volunteers. Most families access Camp Kerry’s retreats and year-round programs for multiple years, and volunteer retention consistently averages at about 90%. In addition, the Camp Kerry team has been asked to present its model of care at provincial, national and international palliative care conferences.
Camp Kerry will use its $2,500 award to support five children from rural, remote, or Indigenous communities in BC to attend its 2018 family retreat.