COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In 2020, Keystin Barnhart’s mom died from a medical condition. As a 10 year old at the time, Barnhart was already coping with online school and the global pandemic.
“Virtual was already hard enough,” Barnhart said. “But it definitely put like a toll on my academics because I was going through a lot at the time and it was rough.”
Barnhart found 35 kids like him at a camp on Old Henderson Road. Run by Cornerstone of Hope, a non-denominational Christian organization, the camp accepts kids from all backgrounds. It relies on donors and grant funding to keep costs at $25.00.
“Kids are walking away with a whole bunch of skills,” program coordinator JoAnn Borer said. “We say at the very, very least, they come to camp and they are connected with other kids who have lost a loved one.”
As well as field trips, kids learn to manage anxiety through play, music, relaxing exercise, breathing techniques, and art.
“We talk about emotions, identifying emotions, managing emotions, what healthy and unhealthy emotions look like and how all emotions are important,” Borer said. “We teach them skills [including] how to talk about their loved one. That’s often something that they just don’t have a space to talk about. We also talk about coping skills.”
Borer explained kids in grief often feel like they are alone. But after camp, they know there are kids and adults who are like them.
“I feel like they have a lot of diverse activities for us to do,” said Barnhart who loves playing sports. “Trying to help with memories of our lost loved ones. And I feel like it’s definitely been a help for a lot of other kids and me.”
“Being able to hear other people’s loss stories, and they relate to us, so connecting with other people who have gone through the same things as us has helped a lot,” Barnhart said. “I feel like I’ve met a lot of friends who relate to me and we can share our stories and have a good time.”
“Camp Memory” took place in Columbus this week. In July, there will be another camp in Cleveland, and in August overnight Camp Erin will be held through the Eluna Network.