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Lourdes Hospice offers kids a day of healing

BY LAUREL BLACKlblack@paducahsun.com

For grieving children, even one day of support and remembrance can help the healing process, providing relief from feelings that challenge even the strongest of adults.

For the past 10 years, Lourdes Hospice has offered that one day in the form of Camp Robin, which offers help for bereaved children ages 4 through 17.

"I realize in one day, we're not going to fix anything, but if we can just give them that outlet ... I think that's a great thing," Camp Robin Committee Chairwoman Melinda Dew said.

Camp Robin, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, provides grieving children with activities, crafts and an opportunity to share memories of their loved ones. Counselors, social and hospice care workers, and other experienced volunteers staff the free camp at the Heartland Worship Center.

"It's a fun day," Dew said. "It sounds like it wouldn't be, but it's a day to remember in really positive ways."

Dew said the camp focuses on individual children's experiences with grief, allowing them to discuss their feelings without worrying about how it will affect parents or other caregivers.

"Maybe they (children) don't express their feelings to the adults in their life because they're afraid of hurting them or making them sad. (The camp) allows them to have positive outlooks, to speak their loved one's name," she said.  "It's just an amazing relief for a kid."

Camp Robin has grown in attendance and offerings over the past decade, and Dew said she dreams of expanding it to a full weekend or longer.

"I would love to see that happen sometime down the road. It's probably in the distant future, but there have been lots of things in our dreams that we're seeing come into reality," she said.

The camp was named in memory of a hospice patient who died at the age of 13, and has evolved from a celebration of her life to a support service for children and families around the region. This year will see record attendance, with more than 65 already enrolled, said Shannah Poindexter, community relationship manager with Lourdes Homecare and Hospice.

Preparing for that many kids isn't always easy. Poindexter said it takes a small army of volunteers - all of whom undergo training and background checks - to make sure the camp runs smoothly. But it's worth it to see the kids open up.

"You see them later in the day with a big smile on their faces and openly talking ... I can't even express what that means. And that's just in a day," she said.

Although registration closed Wednesday, Dew and Poindexter said that Camp Robin won't turn down any child in need.

"If someone feels they've had a loss that has touched their children's lives, our doors are wide open. We would love to help as many kids as need us," Dew said.

For more information on Camp Robin, call the Lourdes Hospice line at 270-415-3636.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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