Written by Casey Papp, SandCastles Camp Alum, Helper & Volunteer
I vividly remember my first SandCastles support group in January 2010. It was the week of my 10th birthday — my first birthday without my mom. After four years of battling ovarian cancer, my mom died on Halloween in 2009. As her illness worsened, she told my dad her greatest fear was that we would forget her.
SandCastles gave me a place where I could remember my mom and also express the sadness I felt about her death. Almost everywhere else I went, I felt like my grief made people uncomfortable, that it was easier to pretend like it wasn’t there. At SandCastles, I didn’t have to pretend.
That was especially true when I went to SandCastles camp.
Tears are welcome at camp and expressing emotions is normal. You’re surrounded by other kids who understand you and staff who support you. We did all the fun camp things: canoeing, swimming, eating camp food. It felt normal to be with the other kids because they had also lost a parent. I could just be myself — I didn’t have to explain.
We spent a lot of time at camp processing our grief. One activity that stood out was “the labyrinth”. You enter a simple maze, and when you get to the center you write a letter to the loved one you lost. Then, you find your way back out in your own time, leaving the letter behind. It was a way to pause and think about how much I’d grown, year after year.
On August 6, SandCastles camp will return in person after two years of virtual programming, giving kids who are experiencing the same things I did a chance to be together, have fun and talk about their grief in a safe, supportive setting.
Camp is offered at no cost to families, but the expense has grown significantly in the past few years. SandCastles relies on the support of generous donors, like you, and I’d like to ask for your help to make camp available to kids in our community.
A donation of $200 will give a child a day at SandCastles camp, but gifts of all levels make a real difference.
Every year as a child — and later as a teen buddy and a volunteer — I came back to the labyrinth to reflect on how far I’d come on my grief journey and to remember my mom, knowing that I would always find my connection to her at the center.
I hope you will help give this opportunity to kids who are grieving today by supporting SandCastles camp. It changed my life, and it can change theirs, too. Thank you!