Love is the ability to be inspired by a person, place, or community everyday. It is the spark that ignites passion in all that we are and do. Love is a constant glow shining on others to allow them to become brighter.
One fall morning, my classmates and I arrived at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Va., greeted by a huge banner entitled, “Camp Wishing Well.” We are current students of Dr. Christine Fleet’s Physiology course, an upper-level Biology course that requires a service component.
Each student enrolled in the course was asked to choose a service site that sparked his or her interest and understanding of physiology. The goal of the service component is for class members to engage fully with the wider community, directly apply physiological concepts covered in our course, and propose a project that will further the mission of our service site.
Camp Wishing Well is sponsored by Hospice of Southwest Virginia, an organization that provides care for terminally ill patients and education about medical care and pain management, while also supporting those who are coping with an ill relative or mourning the loss of a loved one. The camp mission provides a day of remembrance, fellowship, and coping for family members who have lost a close relative, these losses ranging from terminal illness, suicide, old age, and accidents.
Our objective at Camp Wishing Well was to act as mentors and recreation facilitators for the children at the camp. There were as many as twenty Camp Wishing Well participants between the ages of five and eighteen years of age.
Our site supervisor explained the characteristics of a child experiencing grief, the developmental stages of a child’s understanding of death, and what methods we should use to aid in our mentee’s grieving process.
Many grieving children become distant, silent, or fearful in their surroundings. My mentee defied these characteristics. Standing before me was KaLee, a tiny seven year-old girl, bouncing around like a rock star and putting smiles on everyone in the room.
KaLee and I spent the day making “remembrance crafts” and playing games. I was amazed at how KaLee’s personality differed so much from other children at the camp. She revealed that she had lost a beloved grandmother and I soon realized that her “MawMaw” was like the glue in her family. She spoke so eloquently about her that I began to see why God brought me to Camp Wishing Well. Like KaLee, I lost my grandmother and she also was like glue to my father’s family.
Through the camp’s activities, KaLee and I bonded more in a single day than I ever thought possible. My responsibility at the camp was to help with my mentee’s grieving process, but I never expected my mentee to help me through my own. KaLee was full of so much light and love. Her grandmother was KaLee’s light. How could a child, who lost her light, still shine so brightly?
At Camp Wishing Well, I was able to observe grief’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental impact on children. Most importantly, the reason I further my studies was once again sparked by the love and inspiration of a place. I am continuing to work with Hospice of Southwest to further the organization’s mission. I cannot wait to attend Camp Wishing Well next fall.
There is not a day that I am not inspired by Emory & Henry College. It is a blessing being a part of a place so devoted to creating a community through knowledge and understanding. There is no other place that connects classroom concepts directly to service. The opportunities Emory & Henry provides for its students are truly unique and remarkable.