Our mission is to provide grieving children and teens with the tools and resources to help them manage their grief in a healthy way, and to offer companionship in a supportive environment.
We understand that children grieve differently from adults, and that grieving has no set timeframe. A common misconception is that bereavement camps are full of tears and sadness. Not true! Camp is full of fun, good times, and friendship! Most kids don't know that they're not alone until they come to camp. We want each child who attends our camp to leave with a sense of hope, that they are not alone in their grief, and hope that they will continue to seek help in their journey towards healing. Since loss knows no bounds, our camp is provided free of charge to all camper families.
Who is eligible to attend Camp Koala?
RESIDENTIAL CAMPS: Any child aged 7-12, who has experienced the loss of a parent, primary caregiver or sibling is eligible to attend our Youth Camp Koala. Any teen 13-18 is invited to attend our Teen Camp. Applications are reviewed by our staff to ensure that camp is right for each child. Please submit your application early, as camp always fills up quickly.
DAY CAMPS: Wilkes-Barre and Scranton Schools. Any students in grades 1st through 8th who have experienced the death of a loved one are invited to attend our Grief Day Camps. Camps are held at the Wilkes-Barre YMCA's Camp Kresge on Beaver Lake. Students must submit an application, available through their School Counselor. Up to 50 students are invited to each camp.
All about our three day camp
Each Residential Camper is paired with an adult Big Buddy for the entire weekend. Our volunteer staff includes an on-site nurse (RN), therapists, social workers, art, music, dance and movement therapists and adult buddies, police officers and teachers, many who have also lost family members. We have a Pet Therapy team on site, and three wonderful dogs stay with the campers all weekend. We are thrilled to have students from Shippensburg, Dickinson and Drexel Universities, Social Workers, School Counselors, and Professors from Shippensburg University as sessions leaders, support personnel and group leaders. This fine group includes leaders from "Drew's Hope", a bereavement support group in Shippensburg for children, teens & adults. Some of our 'Bigs' are counselors from other bereavement camps, and love the experience of coming to camps like ours. It's not a sad place, but a place of healing and memory making. That's why volunteers come back year after year. Volunteers are required to submit an application and submit to a background check. New Big Buddies are required to attend a training day the month prior to camp.
All about our day camps
Each Day Camper arrives at school on the morning of camp, and is transported to Camp Kresge by school bus. At the end of the day, campers are transported back to their schools. Our Day Camps happen within the school day, and students are transported to and from camp by their school. Day camps are offered to students in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton area schools, and are registered through their School Counselors. Local volunteers are Buddies and Session Leaders and include students from local universities, grief therapists and counselors. This Day Camp is light and fun, and all of our activities are related to Art Therapy and healthy expression of your emotions. Come prepared for a lot of activity and fun, and dress appropriately.
Kids Learn to be Kids again
Session Leaders and volunteers at Camp Koala often include: Licensed Professional Counselor, Counseling PhD, Board Certified Music Therapist, Board Certified Art Therapist, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, College Professors, MFAs, Dance and Movement MA, Dance Therapy MS and MSW volunteers, along with students studying the fields of Counseling, Psychology and Social Work.
These volunteeers lead several therapeutic group sessions designed to address the age-specific needs of the campers. We understand that not all campers respond to traditional counseling methods, so we introduce them to other ways in which to express their grief, many of which they can practice on their own. Under the guidance of our staff, campers participate in activities including art, crafts, music, poetry, theatre, pet therapy & recreation, through which they can explore their emotions. We provide a supportive environment in which campers (if and when they are ready) can share stories about their loved one(s) and their loss(es), and learn techniques to cope with their feelings. Most importantly, kids are given a chance to escape the stresses of day to day life, and learn to be a kid again. All of the activities are specially designed to help campers express themselves and develop bonds with others. Some of the fun we are planning include campfires, s'mores, boating, swimming, archery, hiking, memory boxes and many great activities too numerous to mention! Most of all, the kids have good, clean fun!!!