Camp Erin Eastern Ontario: Teaching kids to grieve and heal

Camp Erin Eastern Ontario: Teaching kids to grieve and heal
Carefor Health & Community Services staffers Michele Smith

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – For children and teens, the loss of a parent, a sibling, or another loved one can leave effects that last until adulthood.

Camp Erin Eastern Ontario aims to change that.

Carefor Health & Community Services staffers Sandy Collette, Michele Smith and Maria Badek met at the Rachel’s Kids office on Wednesday (July 8) to announce spots are still available for the free bereavement camp.

During their visit to Rachel’s Kids, the trio also picked up a box of 30 teddy bears. The stuffed animals, aptly named Ted (no connection to the foul-mouthed movie character), were donated by the Cornwall-based charity’s board of directors as a gift for campers.

“It’s about youth expressing themselves and realizing that grieving is a normal process,” said Smith, the camp’s director. “They’re not alone, but sometimes children don’t even tell their classmates someone has died or they wait for that parent to come back.”

Carefor Health and Community Services is a lead organization of Camp Erin Eastern Ontario, which will help children and teens express grief, build trust and self-esteem, and learn to cope with loss in a safe environment, facilitated by grief professionals from Carefor Eastern Counties and Seaway Valley Community Health Centre and trained volunteers. 

The three-day event (for ages six to 17) will take place on August 28, 29, and 30 at the Rideau Hill Camp in Osgoode, Ont.

“If participants need transportation because they don’t have means to get there, we will get them to it. That should not be an obstacle,” said Badek, director of operations at Hospice Cornwall. “We’re still looking for more youth to attend.”

Camp Erin Eastern Ontario is the brainchild of Lianne Acres-Hannah.

After watching the HBO documentary ‘One Last Hug’ about The Moyer Foundation’s summer camp experience for children who have lost a loved one, the Finch resident campaigned to create the first one of its kind in the region, with the support of North Dundas Mayor and United Counties of SDG Warden Eric Duncan.

The Moyer Foundation provides the tools for the local camp but no monetary support. So the Chesterville Rotary Club has already pledged $15,000 over the next three years to camp operations. 

“Our Club was looking for a project that could really make a difference in our community, and Camp Erin is a great way to do that,” said Duncan, an executive member of the Chesterville volunteer group. “There are not many bereavement programs available to children in our region, so this will hopefully start providing more of this much needed care.”

Ontario presently has two grief camps located in Hamilton (est. 2012) and Toronto (est. 2013).

For more information, contact Smith by email at or by phone at 613-932-3451 or 800-267-1741.

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