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Camp Horizon helping kids to overcome grief


By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

  For 17-year-old Allison Shannon, losing her father James was a devastating experience. She credits Camp Horizon in Stockbridge with helping her to get through it.

Kids participated in arts and crafts and other activities during the annual Camp Horizon. The camp, sponsored by the Sacred Journey Hospice Foundation, is geared toward helping children cope with the loss of a loved one.        Photo by Jason A. Smith

  “I was lost,” said Shannon, of Jonesboro. “I didn’t really know how to grieve and it helped me to release the feelings that I had. I keep thinking that he’s going to walk through the door, but he’s not.”

  Shannon has attended the one-day camp, at Community Bible Church, for the last three years. When this year’s camp was held Aug. 23, it marked her first time as a counselor for other kids who are dealing with losses of their own.

  The free camp has been overseen for the last seven years by the nonprofit Sacred Journey Hospice Foundation. Fifty children, ages 6-16, took part in this year’s camp, said Charles McCollum, president of the foundation’s board.

  He said the main purpose of the camp is to provide a way for children to cope with losing a loved one.

  “What we do is, we extend some kind of therapeutic aspect to it, to help the kids cope with their grief,” he said. “There are no restraints on when the loss occurred, because everybody grieves differently.

  The annual camp features games, arts and crafts and music for the kids in attendance, who are grouped each year according to age. McCollum pointed out that this year’s Camp Horizon came equipped with a treasure-hunters theme to remind the kids that “not all treasure is silver and gold.”

  Pam McMichen has worked as a licensed professional counselor for 15 years, and has served as Camp Horizon’s clinical coordinator since its inception. She said the camp’s team of volunteers work with the kids in large and small group activities to help them understand how different people deal with grief, and to show them that they are not alone.

  “Close to a third of the kids who are here have dealt with a death in the last three months,” said McMichen. “Every kid who is here has lost someone to death. We bring a lot of awareness to the parents and kids about what grief is and how to maneuver through it.”

  McMichen said in addition to giving kids an outlet for their grief, the camp also helps to connect kids who have long-term needs with local resources that can address them.

  Victoria Vesely, 12, of McDonough began coming to Camp Horizon last year, following the 2012 death of her father, Chris. She described the camp as a “positive environment” and said she enjoys interacting with the camp’s volunteers in various activities.

  Vesely said Camp Horizon has also introduced her to others who have had to face losses similar to hers.

  “I made friends here, as annoying as they are,” she said with a joking smile. “We all decided to come back because we knew wouldn’t see each other anywhere else.”

  For more information about Camp Horizon, visit



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