Amid grief, youths are given hope Camp offers help in saying goodbye CENTRAL COUNTY -- Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

August 05, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

On Aug. 22, 68 county children who have lost parents or siblings will stand by the Severn River in Millersville and let go.

They will throw carnations -- one flower for each person, each loved memory -- into the river, write those names on a big, heart-shaped balloon and stand by the water's edge, waving goodbye as it floats away.

Camp Nabe, a children's bereavement camp run by the Hospice of the Chesapeake, is about letting go -- learning how and when to say farewell to the dead, said Betty Asplund, director of the hospice's bereavement center.

"Nabe is Korean for butterfly," she says. "We work with the children about what's happened to them. Like butterflies, they have changed when they lose someone. They are never the same, but they can find hope."

Within the past year, the 3-year-old bereavement program Ms. Asplund developed has gained national attention, with 23 states starting bereavement camps and even more opening bereavement centers.

Her manual explaining the bereavement center is being used in the Netherlands, Canada and Russia.

The second year of the hospice's children's camp, scheduled for Aug. 20-22, will be more than twice as big as the weekend session last year, which drew 30 children.

And Barranco & Sons, a Severna Park funeral home, has channeled a $2,000 grant to the hospice this week to help run the camp at Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center.

The money comes from the York Co., a distributor of wooden caskets that donates part of the profits from its sales to a children's foundation, said Bob Barranco, one of the owners of the funeral home, who recommended that the camp receive some of the money.

Ms. Asplund said the money helps plug holes resulting from the hospice's loss of a $50,000 county grant because of budget cuts.

"We're looking other places for funding. That's why we're so appreciative of this grant. We're overjoyed," said Ms. Asplund, who is certified in bereavement support by the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

The hospice also received $17,000 from the state's Victims' Crime Fund to offer bereavement support to families of murder victims.

The hospice, a nonprofit organization, follows a family through a terminal illness and for up to 15 months after the family member dies. The Anne Arundel program has garnered particular attention for its bereavement program.

Children who attend camp or one of the hospice's children's support groups usually are referred by parents, grandparents, guidance counselors or siblings. In bereavement groups, the children meet for five weeks with a trained social worker.

"We do a lot of work with anger and guilt, memories, burdens," Ms. Asplund said. "Our child-staff ratio is better than 2-to-1 because of the seriousness of the work. Children have many burdens when someone dies."

The weekend overnight camp is designed for children ages 6 to 14. During the camp, each counselor leads a small group of children through summer activities and talks with them about their problems.

At the end of the Camp Nabe weekend, the children plant a tree.

"They go away saying, 'There's hope,' " said Ms. Asplund, who started the bereavement program because of her own family's grief when her husband died 22 years ago.

"We had nothing like this for my children," Ms. Asplund said. But on the anniversary of her husband's death last year, she held the first camp with her 25-year-old son as a counselor.

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