17-year-old Brady Hopkins lost his 3-year-old baby brother to cancer 7 years ago. To help him cope with the tragic loss and grieve in a healthy way, he started coming to Guthrie Hospie’s Good Grief camp in Standing Stone, Pa.
“You’re not alone, you can come here and everyone else is feeling the same way you are and you just all come together,” Brady Hopkins said.
The goal of the camp is to offer a supportive environment for kids to cope with loss, memorialize their lost loved one, and share the experience with others who have gone through the same thing.
“Kids form relationships in just 3 days, that are amazing to watch,” Pat Kurkowski, co-founder and coordinator of Good Grief, said.
One of the activities involves making a scrapbook, complete with photos, drawings, and memories with the child’s loved one.
“The comfort already that the kids have, just after walking in the door and realizing that they’re not alone, and that there’s other kids here who are nervous, or whatever, too. They’re already all teamed up together…it’s only been 2 hours and it’s already just very comfortable for everybody.” Trudy Ventello, co-founder and coordinator of the camp, said.
Ventello and Kurkowski said that the work is hard, but rewarding.
“What I’ve taken away is the power of peer support, of communicating…It’s always been an amazing, very gratifying experience for me.,” Kurkowski said.
The experience has come full circle for Brady Hopkins – as a junior counselor, he’s now in the same role as his favorite counselor from back when he was a camper, Cody.
“He took me under his wing. I think his scrapbook was the biggest out of everyone’s, and he would help me make my scrapbook every day…and I just loved coming to see him…he was awesome,” Hopkins said.
Now Brady says helping others, ends up helping him as well.
“The little ones..they come to see me every year. I guess it’s like a big brother to them,” Hopkins said.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, but with the Good Grief camp, at least no one has to go through it alone.