DICK BAYNTON: Camp Braveheart

Dick Baynton

If you have not heard about Camp Braveheart, you will be pleased to read today’s column. It is truly one-of-a-kind success story. Camp Braveheart is a Christ-centered camp designed to meet the unique emotional and spiritual needs of youth who are walking the journey of grief. Youths do not have the vocabulary or experience to know how to express the depth of pain they feel after a death. These boys and girls learn coping skills to identify what they feel and healthy ways to express their emotions.

Gentle Shepherd Hospice, a family owned hospice, celebrating their 25th year of operations in Roanoke and Lynchburg, VA publishes the following ‘mission statement:’ “We are called and committed to providing exceptional hospice care in a manner that aligns with Gentle Shepherd’s Christ-centered values and mission. Many of us have been working together as a team for years, and even decades, supporting each other in delivering the highest quality of care to our patients and their families.”

Gentle Shepherd in peripheral efforts worked with adults who were grieving over the loss of partners, parents, children and close relatives. Then the thought arose in Martha Furman, LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) who proposed to Don Eckenroth, Founder and President of Gentle Shepherd Hospice, that one family segment is overlooked. Who are more impacted by the loss of parents and other loved ones than children? Their lives become turbulent because families are torn apart by the loss of a parent or next-of-kin. In 2008 Braveheart was hatched and those who had become tainted with grief (children) would no longer be the overlooked grief-stricken.

Through contacts that Martha’s husband John Furman, D.Min. had established, Camp Braveheart became home at Ridge Haven Conference Center and Camp, a church-based facility in Western North Carolina near the town of Brevard in Transylvania County near the entry to Pisgah National Forest. The setting is ideal with cabins for sleeping and buildings for dining and assembly. In this serene forested area, minds are clear and able to focus on the grief of loss of a loved one. Participants enjoy activities such as the ropes course, hiking, climbing tower, kayaking and canoeing on the lake, that also has a slide and rope swing. All these challenges are utilized during their courageous exploitation of grieving.

Camps are convened in June of each year; annual attendance numbers about 75 youths who are ‘rising’ third graders through high school seniors. Children arrive from all over the country and many value the 6-day camp (Monday –Saturday) so highly that they return after experiencing the benefits of their first visit. Grief persists into the future; following the death of her father, a girl might contemplate who will walk her down the aisle on wedding day. A boy could be concerned about moving into a college dorm or advice about dating. Thus many campers return to continue learning coping skills to manage their grief and honor their loved ones.  Repeat participants in camp life are often referred to as C.I.T.’s (Counselors in Training) who deal with other participants and share their knowledge and wisdom about grieving.

Regarding leadership of Camp Braveheart, Professional therapists, a worship leader and ministers are brought in to meet with individuals and groups at the camp who employ techniques that can change the outlook on life in general and personal grief as well. Most professionals attend with compensation only a stipend to cover expenses. Many of these professional therapists and counselors bring their spouses and are effusive at week’s end saying things like, ‘We got more out of this camp than we thought possible’ and ‘We will be delighted to be invited next year.’

Camp Braveheart can be a part of your charitable donations that could help change the lives of grieving youths right in your own church and/or neighborhood. Please go to website <campbraveheart.com> for information. Martha Furman, LPC can be reached at [email protected].  Dates for 2020 are June 8-13 for Braveheart Camp.

The cost of attendance is $350 but qualifying children who want to attend can be accommodated by various levels of aid to allow most applicants to attend. Endowments have been adequate in the past but additional funding can provide assistance for more needy children. What an achievement it could be to bring the following Biblical words of wisdom to life: Corinthians 15: 54 & 55 “Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting?” Amen