If there were a theme song for Comfort Zone Camp, a Camp for children ages 7-17 who have lost a parent, a sibling or caregiver to help them grieve, heal and grow, it would be Whitney Houston singing "The Greatest Love of All."
On this anniversary of 9/11, it is most fitting to honor those whose lives were lost and the heroic work of our Emergency Responders by sharing with you dear readers the work of Comfort Zone Camp. From Peter Shrock, Vice President of Strategy, Design and Program for Comfort Zone Camp, "Sometimes loss is sudden and tragic. Sometimes it's over the long term...You can never have too much support. The more people who know we are here there is hope for the next generation of kids."
I was blessed to spend an hour conversation yesterday with Sue Oppici, the Regional Development Officer for Comfort Zone Camp, a non profit organization established in 1998. In 1999, Comfort Zone Camp welcomed their first campers. Sue received a letter after 9/11 looking for volunteers. She lived in New Jersey at the time. After going to the training where kids who have attended Camp let prospective volunteers know why they are needed, Sue knew this was an organization she wanted to be a part of. She volunteered in 2002 and it was a life changing moment for her. In 2007, she signed on as an employee.
Comfort Zone Camp has been an organization near and dear to the heart of Jeffrey Spratt, Owner and Principal of Spratt Muscular Therapies, LLC.
He has volunteered doing sports massage at each of their Grief Relief 5K's, participated in the Polar Plunge to raise money for Camp and did chair massage at an event to raise money and awareness for Camp.
What began as an outreach to Sue as Jeffrey's Communications and Public Relations Director transformed into the bonds of friendship around Comfort Zone Camp. It's really no surprise since magic and transformation are part of what Comfort Zone Camp is all about.
I lost my dad to suicide when I was 17 years old back in 1971. What a difference having an opportunity to attend Camp Comfort Zone would have made in my life and I feel so blessed that I can now support this wonderful organization.
There is no cost for campers to attend Camp. The Camp experience begins with an intake phone call to get to know the child and their family in a way that you can't get from filling out an on line application. The intake worker coordinates with other professionals involved in the life of the child who are helping them manage their grief. As Sue says, "something happens in that weekend. It's hard to put it into words but when they leave, after they've been 'in the bubble' participating in activities to facilitate healing and build strength and confidence you see the transformation. Their faces are round and they are smiling and laughing."
As one of the Campers said in the YouTube video, "Who knew you could use grief and fun in the same sentence?"
Comfort Zone Camp also offers specialized programs for children who are survivors of suicide, and fallen firefighters.
"Our message to children is that yes this happened to you and yes it will stay with you but it will also help you to form who you are going to be," Sue shared with me.
Many of the Campers go on to become Big Buddies and choose professions in which they have an opportunity to bring healing to others. Big Buddies provide a one on one connection to Campers throughout their Camp stay. The Big Buddy reaches out to the Camper before arriving at Camp and greets them upon their arrival.
Comfort Zone Camp was featured on News 4 New York last night.
If you are in the greater Boston area, we'd love to see you at the Grief Relief 5K on October 17:
Follow this link to register and/or make a donation.
And this note posted on Facebook from Sue:
Help us reach this challenge: An anonymous family foundation will match any new (first-time) donations for the 5k, up to a total of $5,000.
Let family, friends, colleagues, and employers know. Donations in any amount will add up! Or mail checks made out to "Comfort Zone Camp" to: Comfort Zone Camp, Attn: Sue Oppici, 5 Lowell Avenue, 1st Floor, Winchester, MA 01890. (Include a note if the donation is for a specific fundraising page.)
It is because of our community that Comfort Zone can offer services free-of-charge ... services that are transforming the lives of grieving children. Ask your employer or favorite business if they would like to sponsor this event. Visit this link and click on Sponsorship Opportunities.
Run. Walk. Change a Child's Life! YOU will make a difference.