UW-Green Bay’s Camp Lloyd offers fun, healing for grieving kids

Since its inception eight years ago, UW-Green Bay’s Camp Lloyd has helped hundreds of children who are grieving the loss of a loved one. By combining traditional camp activities with specialized sessions on grief and coping, the weeklong day camp helps kids know they’re not alone.

“Camp Lloyd started in 2006. I got the idea from my colleagues from the Association of Death Education and Counseling, which is my professional organization,” said UW-Green Bay Prof. and Camp Lloyd founder Illene Cupit. “They talked about psychotherapeutic camping, which is camping where you help at-risk kids learn to cope with the issues that they’re dealing with through play. And they talked about how wonderful bereavement camps are for helping children who have suffered a loss.”

So Cupit founded Camp Lloyd, which attracted just nine campers its first year. The 2013 camp welcomed 33 campers, along with numerous grief counselors and Camp Lloyd “Buddies” — trained student interns who pair up to help campers feel at home.

“There’s a lot of memory-related and grief-related activities, as well as a lot of camp,” Cupit said. “And what we’re trying to do is teach the kids that, in the context of their grief, it’s still OK to be a kid — which they feel they can’t be anymore — and it’s still OK to have a good time.”

Recent UW-Green Bay graduate Tony Klingert was the “Head Buddy” for Camp Lloyd 2013, helping organize activities and ensure camp ran smoothly.

“We have healing circles every day for about an hour, and grief therapists work with small groups of kids that are divided up by age groups,” Klingert said. “And they help them to develop healthy coping skills, and they talk about their stories, they talk about their grief — and help them to work through it.”

Some Camp Lloyd activities are a hybrid of traditional camp mainstays — such as arts and crafts — and special sessions designed to promote coping and healing.

“We’re doing memory boxes, which is a therapeutic activity,” Klingert said. “They decorate it in ways that will help them to remember their loved one. And then inside the box, they can put pictures of their loved one, or little mementos they have that remind them of their loved one. So that’s cool, because it’s therapeutic — but at the same time, it fosters those relationships between the buddies and the kids.”

Eight-year-old Doug Laux was attending his first Camp Lloyd, paired up with “buddy” Haley Massart, a UW-Green Bay senior.

“I put stuff that reminds me of my brother in it, and I put my brother’s two favorite colors on it,” Laux said of his memory box. “I have a picture of my brother — like, you can put something like this in there.”

Working with her two little buddies, including Laux, was a joy — and a great learning experience — for Massart, a Human Development and Psychology major.

“I think a lot of these kids, they feel like they’re alone,” Massart said. “They have no other friends that have lost somebody close to them. I wanted them to feel not so alone because they’re not the only ones.”

For many Camp Lloyd big buddies, the experience is a stepping stone to a future career. And for all of them, it’s a week to be remembered.

“I would eventually like to become a counselor,” Klingert said. I would love to come back and be a grief therapist some day for Camp Lloyd.  For me to see that change, from day one to the last day of camp, I mean, it makes me feel like — it just humbles me, to see these kids, and to see everyone that puts in the hard work. It’s just — it’s an amazing experience.”

More information about Camp Lloyd is available online.