When Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care children’s bereavement counselor Mike Barnett raised his hand at a staff meeting over two decades ago, he never imagined it would lead to one of the most rewarding and repeated experiences of his life.
Barnett recalls that he had just started working at Cornerstone and the team was planning its first weekend program for kids in the agency’s bereavement program. He offered his extensive repertoire of campfire songs. That and his years’ experience leading church camps propelled him to being named “head counselor.”
On September 22, Barnett greeted a new group of children at Camp Bridges 2018, marking his 20th year as camp director. Fifteen children, ages 6-12, attended the overnight camp, held at the Warren W. Willis United Methodist Camp in Fruitland Park.
“The grieving process can be especially difficult for younger children because they are not able to articulate their feelings or may not understand why their loved one died,” said Barnett, who resides in Eustis. “For 24 hours, these children get a chance to enjoy being a kid while learning to cope with life without their loved one.”
Camp Bridges is partially funded by a grant from the Lake County Children’s Services Council and families pay nothing for their children to attend. Only children enrolled in Cornerstone’s bereavement program are invited. The camp is completely run by volunteers, some who were previous Camp Bridges campers.
Grief support services are free and open to anyone in the community whether or not a loved one was in Cornerstone’s care. For information about Cornerstone’s bereavement services, contact 888-728-6234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.