A chance to cry, to mourn, to celebrate, to have fun, and to make new friends. This is what happened at Hoofbeats of Hope, Renew’s special day camp for children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one. Sixteen campers spent two days at Renew this summer to gain coping skills for their personal grief journey in partnership with a special horse.
We were blessed to have Tasha Federinko, LPC, PATH Intl. ESMHL, and EAGALA certified professional facilitate the camp. She collaborated with Melissa Conner, Executive Director, PATH Intl. ESMHL and Advanced Instructor, along with four additional Renew staff holding PATH Intl. professional certifications (Shaina Stirkwerda, Kelly Leikert, Kayla Tuinenga, and Abby DeZeeuw) as well as Renew volunteers trained in grief and trauma to come alongside the campers and support them during the two days. It was an incredibly meaningful experience for all as the campers were given space to take necessary steps toward healing. The ability to remember and talk about a loved one, despite the loss, and the ability to have hope during pain and tough circumstances are keys that will help them to overcome future hurdles. The time in the barn with horses is conducive to such healing, and we witnessed transformational changes in each person during the two day camp.
One parent expressed gratitude at the end of camp, saying “You have no idea how meaningful this was for my children. We heard laughter in the house after the first day of camp, and that has not happened in a very long time.” With our horses and with our team, there is no judgement; instead, students find a space where they can feel and a sense of community and support that allows for growth. The camp experience also provided much-needed fun, excitement and hope for the future – to help the campers to know that life still has opportunities for them to enjoy again and that it is okay to laugh, and to cry, without fear of judgment or guilt.
“As long as we keep walking through the shade of grief, we will eventually walk back into the sunshine of life again,” stated Dan Gerbens, Renew Volunteer at Hoofbeats of Hope and Board Member, in response to our trail rides with the campers where we experienced shady spots and sunny spots as we walked with the horses. The daily trail rides with the campers corresponded with a book we read together at camp that said, “We are going on a journey, and we are not in a hurry.”
It was an honor to provide this experience for so many this summer, and we look forward to future camps. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need additional information about this or any other program we offer.