Valley camp works to help kids overcome loss of loved ones

PHOENIX - The loss of a loved one is never easy, and for a child, it can be the most tragic event in their lives. 

This weekend, dozens of children will attend a three day camp on the Paradise Valley High School Campus where they will learn to cope and overcome their grief.

It’s called Camp Kangaroo; put on by Season Hospice. It’s been going on for the last seven years, and this is the third time its been held here in the valley.

The entire event is free to the children and is run entirely by volunteers who specialize in therapy and social work to give these kids the tools they need to move forward from their grief.

They help kids like 11-year-old Xavior Burris, who is struggling with the death of his uncle.

“My uncle he got hurt, he was in the hospital. He died in 2017,” said Burris. 

The pain of that loss still haunts him nearly a year after his death.

“One day he told my grandpa, his dad, that he said, ‘I hurt so much.’ It’s just sad, what happened to him,” he said.

Every child at Camp Kangaroo is dealing with the tragedy of death, and for the first time in a long time, Burris says he doesn’t feel alone in his grief. He says it’s helping him overcome his pain.

“To know there are people – there are people who have similar experiences as me,” said Burris.

At the three-day camp, these kids are getting the emotional support they have been longing for.

“The day is just full of therapy, mostly through art,” said Camp Director Chrissy Bird.

The therapy includes drawing pictures that represent what they’re feeling, smashing pottery and putting the pieces together. Several superhero characters also visit. They will also get a dog and equine therapy.

The theme this weekend is superheroes.

“So that the kids could relate back to every superhero story started with a tragedy,” said Bird. “So, they’re creating capes and shields, and it’s amazing to see what they come up with to honor their loved one and use it to honor their loved one.”

Bird has helped run the program for the last three years, and each year she is in awe of the progress the kids make over the three-day camp. 

While some overcome their grief in those three days, others need follow-up therapy to continue their progress. 

“Watching their journey as they overcome their struggles has been.. words can’t even describe it,” said Bird.

On day one, Burris is already making a lot of progress.

“It’s awesome,” he says. “looking forward to making new friends, having fun.”

The children who attend the camp are evaluated by Season Hospice to make sure they are ready to start therapy, and follow-up evaluations are done to ensure they are making progress in their recovery.  

Next year, the camp hopes to help twice as many kids.  

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