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Ballad Health to hold Camp Firefly event for grieving children, teenagers on Sept. 7

Monday, August 26, 2019

Ballad Health to hold Camp Firefly event for grieving children, teenagers on Sept. 7

When young hearts break, they might need extra care to become whole again.

Ballad Health Hospice will help those hurting hearts on Saturday, Sept. 7, with its Camp Firefly for grieving children, teenagers and their families. The camp, which runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., will be held at Warrior’s Path State Park in Kingsport.

“If someone’s old enough to love, they’re old enough to grieve,” said Anna Butler, a chaplain with Ballad Health Hospice. “At Camp Firefly, we try to provide a variety of interventions, so each child can find something that helps them heal. 

“We have one-on-one and group sessions; we have quiet times that allow for reflection and busy times with vigorous activities. But everything we do has the intention of helping kids cope with their grief.”

Camp Firefly is a free, one-day event that provides a safe, fun and caring atmosphere where campers and their families explore their feelings by:

  • Developing an age-appropriate understanding of death
  • Forming relationships with peers who have experienced similar losses
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Reducing feelings of isolation
  • Strengthening coping skills

Campers – who range in ages from 4 to 17 – come together in age-divided groups to address their feelings of grief, celebrate their loved ones through memory-focused activities and learn healthy coping skills. Lunch is provided, with time for families to reconnect and relax. The camp day concludes with a memorial ceremony that includes a lighted lantern release.

Trained volunteers serve as camp buddies and accompany participants through activities led by professional social workers, counselors and nurses. The camp is largely staffed by Ballad Health team members, and most supplies and resources have been made possible by Morris-Baker Funeral Home, Camp Firefly’s lead sponsor.

“Grief in children has always been relevant to Morris-Baker,” said Preston McKee, president of Morris-Baker and owner of Kibbi, a Niswonger Children’s Hospital therapy dog that will be present at Camp Firefly. “These members of our community are sometimes left out of healing rituals, so we like to do everything we can to give them the support they need.”

Kibbi and other therapy dogs will be on-hand at each camp station for children who need one-on-one comfort or a few minutes to decompress.

“One of the things I love about pet therapy is that it allows for the comfort of touch, but in a safe and helpful manner,” Butler said. “When Kibbi started coming to camp a couple years ago, it was a perfect fit. She and her handler had an innate sense about when a kid needed help and would gravitate towards them. Campers are also instructed that they can seek out our therapy dogs if they feel overwhelmed and need support.”

Parents and guardians are also encouraged to attend Camp Firefly with their children. Separate sessions are conducted to help the adults understand and support children’s grieving processes, recognize signs of complicated grief, cope with their own grief and learn how to respond to children’s unique needs. A panel of experienced professionals will be available to answer questions.

Anyone interested in attending Camp Firefly should register by Wednesday, Sept. 4. All campers receive a bandana, backpack, grief literature and the special projects they create that day.

To register or learn more about Camp Firefly, please contact Ballad Health Hospice at 423-431-6146 or visit

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