Former O's pitcher finds purpose in others' grief

Good Works

Jamie Moyer setting up camps to help children

  • Karen Moyer, Jamie Moyer's wife, is shown at Seattle's Camp Erin, one of 36 camps across the U.S. designed to help children deal with the death of a relative or friend.
Karen Moyer, Jamie Moyer's wife, is shown at Seattle's… (Randell Walton photos )
April 11, 2010|By Mike Klingaman | mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Former Orioles pitcher Jamie Moyer's effort to blanket America with bereavement camps for children is based on nothing personal.

No tragedy in Moyer's own life spurred him to create a nationwide network of support centers for youngsters who are grieving for loved ones - like the camp that is coming to Maryland in July.

"Why do this? Why not?" said Moyer, who, at 47, is still pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies.

"We all have to deal with death, but when a child has to do it, it's really unfortunate," he said. "I can't imagine an 8-year-old having a sibling or parent passing, and trying to cope."

To that end, on July 23-25, the Moyer Foundation will launch Camp Erin Baltimore, a weekend-long experience of both fun activities and grief counseling at NorthBay, in North East in Cecil County. The camp, located on the Chesapeake Bay, is free for children ages 6 to 17 who are mourning the death of a family member or friend.

The camp can accommodate 50 youngsters and will operate in connection with Roberta's House, a family grief support center in Baltimore. Applications are being accepted online at robertashouse.org, or call 410-235-6633.

Camp Erin is named for the late Erin Metcalf, a teenage cancer patient in Washington state whom Moyer and his wife, Karen, befriended during his time with the Seattle Mariners.

Since its inception in 2002, Camp Erin has spawned 36 camps in 23 states. Moyer's goal is "to put one in every Major League city." To date, only New York, Pittsburgh and Houston are missing.

Adding Maryland to the mix was a given, said Moyer, who played for the Orioles from 1993 to 1996 and resurrected his pitching career here. Signed by Baltimore as a free agent, he'd gone winless (0-5) with St. Louis in 1992.

"I came to the Orioles to try to find myself, my career and my life," said Moyer.

That first season, at the request of a family friend, he visited a cancer-stricken child at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and struck up a friendship.

"The bond we created allowed me to keep my job in perspective," said Moyer, who has eight children of his own. "It really hit me, how blessed we were."

The child survived, and Moyer's career took an upturn. He won 25 games while with the Orioles and has gone on to notch 258 career victories.

"The baseball part was cool," he said last week, during a visit to Baltimore. "But to be able to leave this type of legacy, in this community, for grieving children, which can help them for many, many years down the road, is very gratifying."

He knows he's on the right track, said Moyer, from comments he has received from other big-league players.

"They'll come up to me and say, 'I could have benefited from that [camp] when I was a kid,' " he said.

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