Grief is individual, but children don’t have to be alone when experiencing it, says UW-Green Bay Prof. Illene Noppe, an expert in death, dying and bereavement.
Every child who has lost a loved one has a story to tell.
Camp Lloyd gives them an outlet to share such stories, and it’s UW-Green Bay students who are there to listen and help those children heal.
Noppe started Camp Lloyd because her husband, Prof. Lloyd Noppe, lost his father around his ninth birthday. She felt he and his siblings would have benefited greatly if they had someone else to share their grief with.
Camp Lloyd is a weeklong day camp where children can go and learn they are not alone in with their grief. Every summer, grieving kids from Northeastern Wisconsin meet at the Ecumenical Center on the UW-Green Bay campus for fun and games and grief counseling with experts in the field.
UW-Green Bay student camp volunteers—mostly human development and psychology majors—are there to spend the week with the campers to make sure they have a fun experience.
“They become their special buddy,” Ilene said of the students’ relationship with a camper. “They form a very intense, wonderful relationship, very quickly. The kids really look up to the college students, too. They’re really good role models for them.”
Before camp, the students learn about death and grief through special camp training sessions and from a course in death and dying taught by Prof. Illene Noppe.
UW-Green Bay students receive three internship credits for participating in the camp as a buddy. Student interns usually have aspirations to go on in the counseling field, so the camp gives them valuable experience, Illene said.
The students pay special attention to their camp buddies throughout the week, often resulting in continued communication and friendship long after the camp has ended.
“I know it’s just a week long, but you really do bond with your buddy,” said student intern Molly Hibscher.
And those are bonds that are hard to break.
Camp Lloyd founder Illene Noppe:
Camp Lloyd is a camp for grieving children, children who’ve lost a loved one. It’s for children from 7 to 14 years of age. It’s a one week day camp held here at the UW-Green Bay Campus. We hold it in the Ecumenical Center. The children come for one week. They work one-on-one with college students, mostly from the human development and psychology department but we’ve had social work majors, we have an art major working with Camp Lloyd this year.
Our students do this for internship credit so they learn about death and grief and loss in childhood and then they work with the kids the entire week and they become their special buddy.
They form a very intense, wonderful relationship very quickly. The kids really look up to the college students, too. They’re really good role models for them.
We spend the whole day with them. We do camp activities. We do crafts and stuff with them. If they do need someone to talk to we’re always here for them during the day, but mostly were just to have fun and do the fun side of camp and make things a little lighter.
We do crafts every day. Right now we’re making our memory boxes, so that’s nice. We start out each day with music. My favorite part of the day is swimming. We end each day with swimming so it gets out all your wiggles and everything, too, so that’s fun.
I know it’s just a week long, but you really do bond with your buddy, and just to have that experience with them.
I started the camp because I had married into a family that had suffered a significant tragic loss. My husband, Lloyd—who the camp is named after—his father was killed tragically in a car accident right before his 9th birthday. I’ve seen the impact on my husband, on his sister (my sister-in-law) and my mother-in- law.
Lloyd comes every day. He actually comes and introduces the healing circles and talks about his loss experience. He comes every day and connects with the kids and participates in several of the activities.
I come every day for at least an hour or two. I chat with the kids informally. I serve as the official camp mascot. I just help with the counselors when they need.
The camp was started by my wife, Ilene. She thought that it would be a good idea for grieving children to be able to have the opportunity to be able to meet with other kids in the same situation.
When I was 9 years old, my father died in a car accident. I really didn’t have anyone to talk to at that time. She thought that this would be a good memorial to him and it would be a service to any children in the community.
Grief is so individual. Every child that we have coming to camp has his or her own story.
The ultimate goal for the children is for them to see that they are not alone; that there are other kids just like them. When they come to camp here, we really emphasize that this is a safe place for them to be. This is a place where they can be themselves, where they can have a good time and that it’s OK for them to have a good time even though they are grieving over their loss, and that there other kids there that are going through the same thing.