Meta facebook tracking pixel

Hope Soars at CancerCare’s 15th Annual Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp

Families who have recently lost a loved one to cancer came together at Memorytown USA in Mount Pocono, PA for CancerCare’s 15th annual free Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp from June 7-9, 2024. 19 families and 33 children aged 4-13 attended the camp from as far away as North Carolina and Washington state.

As the families arrived on Friday, the children were able to drop off art projects they created ahead of time and be entered into a raffle. That evening, they gathered for dinner and participated in activities including dancing to music courtesy of DJ Angelo, hula hoop contests and s’more making.

alt text

This year’s camp was themed around butterflies, which symbolize resilience, hope and change. On Saturday morning, each family decorated a mandala with memories of their loved ones and created butterfly-shaped collages with pictures of their loved ones.

“Even though they’re all grieving the same person, it’s really difficult to have those conversations, so these activities help them come together and talk about the person they lost,” shared Cecilia Kuepper, CancerCare’s Healing Hearts Program Coordinator.

Adults then connected with each other in support groups run by CancerCare’s oncology social workers while the children split into age-specific groups. Younger children were read “Elmer and the Butterfly” by David McKee, donated by the Light One Little Candle Foundation. They also learned a dance by CancerCare oncology social worker Nikki Molfetas. Teens and tweens addressed the persistence of love and memory by writing lyrics to “Butterfly Come Home,” a song composed by CancerCare’s Senior Director of Social Work, Sarah Paul.

alt text

In the afternoon, the families had free time to participate in activities including horseback riding at Mountain Creek Riding Stable, fishing, crafts, temporary tattoos, jewelry making and kickboxing led by Kat Morano, Grants Coordinator at CancerCare.

In the evening, they gathered for a memorial service to honor the memories of their loved ones, listen to poetry and watch performances by the children. After dinner, families participated in karaoke and games of musical chairs.

Sunday morning, the adults attended a resilience panel with parents who had lost a spouse or partner as well as young adults who had lost a parent. The panelists, some of whom previously attended camp, told stories that gave the attendees hope for themselves and their children.

“That is the piece that the parents want to hear because they struggle with their own grief, but knowing that their kids are going to be okay is the power of this resilience panel,” shared Kathy Nugent, CancerCare’s Senior Director of Regional Programs.

alt text

As the weekend came to a close, adults and children came together and did a meditation on butterflies, resilience and hope guided by Nikki. Each family released several butterflies and received butterfly windchimes and seed packets. The families also had the opportunity to share their favorite parts of camp. Popular answers included the food, horseback riding, fishing and being in a supportive environment.

“This retreat has been a safe space for us to share memories, feelings and open up about hard times,” shared one attendee. “As we move forward, I hope to remember my loved one pre-cancer, the smiles, the infuriating moments, the silly laughs, all of it!”

A parent shared, “Thank you for all the kind support and helping create such a magical weekend for those who truly cherish it! It’s truly been the best we’ve had in two years.”

The Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp would not be possible without our volunteers, partners and supporters. Special thanks to Eisai, our primary sponsor, as well as our other supporters including the DeAnna Stark Pasciuto Memorial Fund – Northern New Jersey Community Foundation, the Lillian Schenk Foundation and the Valley Hospital Foundation. We would like to thank the Giving Doll Foundation for donating dolls, the Light One Little Candle Foundation for donating books for the children, Johnson & Johnson for donating family bags, Genmab for donating paper butterflies, Pfizer for donating beaded bracelets and CKO Kickboxing Downtown Brooklyn for donating kickboxing gloves. We would also like to thank Memorytown USA for providing excellent services and meals to our families, staff and volunteers as well as Mountain Creek Riding Stable for hosting horseback riding.

Like all of CancerCare’s services, the Healing Hearts Family Bereavement Camp is made available to families completely free of charge. Please consider making a contribution to help support families coping with the loss of a loved one. You can also contact Kathy Nugent at 201-301-6809 or should you wish to make a charitable contribution.

Questions or comments for us? Please email
Back to Top

Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

By using our website, you agree to our recently updated Privacy Policy . Here you can read more about our use of cookies which help us make continuous improvements to our website. Privacy Policy.