Jul 17, 2023

'Brave like Dad was': Abilene teen uses Hendrick's Camp Courage to cope with loss

by: Karley Cross

Posted: Jun 8, 2023 / 07:52 PM CDT

Updated: Jun 8, 2023 / 07:54 PM CDT

ABILENE, Texas ( – Hendrick Hospice Care's Camp Courage focuses in on helping Abilene children learn coping mechanisms and form a support group after the loss of a loved one. Their week of day camp began Monday, and by Thursday, the kids were out in the sun, having fun.

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Bereavement Coordinator for Hendrick Hospice Care, Adrianna Golden-Smith told KTAB/KRBC this program is unlike any other in the area because it zeroes in on developing kids’ coping mechanisms.

"As a kid you feel so alone. Then in grief, you feel so alone, and so by putting them with peers they see, ‘okay, I’m not the only one grieving and I can do this. I’ve got some good support around me,'" Golden-Smith explained.

Camp Courage is open to local students between the third and 12th grades. While you may have missed your chance for the annual summer day camp, Golden-Smith said Hendrick Hospice Care offers events and counseling sessions throughout the year.

For example, most similar to Camp Courage is Club Courage. Club Courage is a peer support group for students which meets on Tuesday evenings during the school year.

"If you’ve lost a parent, grandparent, sibling, pet; Camp Courage is the place to go… It's great to meet people just like you who are willing to talk and listen," vouched camper Nehemiah Turner.

Nehemiah told KTAB/KRBC he's been attending Hendrick Hospice Care's bereaved children programs for three years. He said his mom heard of Club Courage in 2021 from a colleague and asked him to go, "That first impression made me want to come back every single year."

The teen's stepdad, Gary Hill, who Nehemiah only refers to as ‘dad’ passed away in March of 2020 after a 5-year battle with lymphoma.

"As soon as our life got started, he was diagnosed with lymphoma," Nehemiah said. "Gary Hill truly changed my life. He was a great man… We would be not the same people if we did not meet him."

Through Club Courage, Nehemiah said he was able to better understand his grief, meet other kids his age going through a similar situation, and even learn more about his likes, dislikes, and hobbies.

Golden-Smith said counselors take the campers through small group activities, grief counseling sessions, and various ‘fun time’ activities. Those activities could include sand tray therapy, art therapy, yoga, meditation and more. Thursday was water play day, and the kids could not get enough of it.

Children were laughing, shouting, sharing secrets, throwing water balloons at one another. It was certainly a scene to take in.

Hendrick Hospice Care also offers group sessions for caregivers of bereaved children, to help the guardians better understand not only their own grief, but the grief of the children in their lives.

"I get grief is hard, but you’re gonna get through it," added Nehemiah. "You just have to be brave like Dad was."

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