Photo Provided
Pictured are some of the volunteers at Camp Hope Warsaw in 2021.
Photo Provided Pictured are some of the volunteers at Camp Hope Warsaw in 2021.
Ryan’s Place is bringing Camp Hope back to Warsaw to help children deal with their grief over the deaths of loved ones.

Warsaw Community Church, 1855 S. County Farm Road, Warsaw, will be the location for Camp Hope Warsaw from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 12 to 14. To register, call Ryan’s Place at 574-535-1000 or email callebach@ryansplace.org for a link to the registration. Registration deadline is tentatively set for Friday, July 1, and the camp is free.

Any child in grades first through seventh grades is welcome to attend, said Cara Allebach, camp coordinator for Camp Hope Warsaw. Warsaw Community Schools is providing free transportation to and from the camp for any WCS student participating. Parents or guardians will have to provide their own transportation for a child who is not a WCS student.

The WCS Food Service Department is providing all participants with free lunches.

Allebach said this will be the second year for the camp. They had 45 campers in 2021. As of Monday, there are 25 children signed up for this year’s camp.

Activities will be inside and outside. All participants will receive free T-shirts and backpacks. Planning for all of the activities the kids will participate recently was completed, she said.

“Basically, they’re just activities to get the kids discussing their loved one that has died. Talking together about the losses that they’ve had. So we’re doing that in different sorts of ways. We have certain art projects and crafts that they’re going to make to honor the loved one that’s gone,” she said. “We have Spoonful of Imagination coming in to do an art therapy activity one day with the kids. We have some music therapists that are coming one day to do some therapy through music with the kids.”

She said they will do a camp theme song and the children will get to name their loved ones. “So we’re going to create a little song together so that will be cool,” she said.

The idea is to try to find different ways to get the kids to process and deal with the death and their loss and all of the feelings that they have.

“I think one of the important things about having this opportunity is that kids can see that they’re not alone. There’s other kids their age that have had a mom or dad who has died. Or a grandparent. Or a friend or a sibling. They’re not the only one. I think that really makes an impact on them. That’s one of the main things that they need to experience,” Allebach said.

There’s no timeframe as to when the loss had to have happened. She said if a child had someone close to them die three or four years ago, it may take a while for that death to really hit them.

“We actually have some kids coming back, too. Some kids that came last summer are returning and are really excited about it,” she said.

For the most part, the people facilitating the groups at Camp Hope Warsaw work for the Warsaw School System. “So a lot of them are social workers or retired teachers. Some of them work in hospice care. Some are high school graduates who want to get into the counseling field. So everybody’s got a good groundwork of experience of how to work with kids in a group and how to get those discussions going,” she said.

Background checks are conducted on everyone helping out.

Ryan’s Place, which has been around for over 20 years, is named after Ryan Gleim, who was a student at Manchester College (now University). He died in 1992. His parents, Rex and Nancy, were educators and decided they needed something for their other son to process his grief as there was nothing for him at that time. Ryan’s Place was started as a grassroots organization in Elkhart County and has grown from there. It is all volunteer-led. In the last 10 years, Allebach said Ryan’s Place has been easing down into Kosciusko County. For more information on Ryan’s Place, visit the website at ryansplace.org.

There’s already a plan to bring the camp back to Warsaw in summer 2023.

“So, we already have the funding for next summer available to us so it’s exciting to know that we’ll be doing it in 2023,” she said.

United Way of Kosciusko and Whitley Counties fully funded Camp Hope Warsaw in 2021 and is supporting the camp this year and next.

“Since last year, we’ve really noticed how when we did the camp in Warsaw, it was really good but we had a lot of people from outside of this area that had an interest. So, people from (North) Webster and Syracuse and North Manchester and even the Pierceton area, so they’re actually going to be hosting two Saturday camps in the fall - one in Columbia City and one up in Syracuse,” Allebach said, adding those two Saturday camps are still in the early planning stages. “But, (we’re) just noticing that need all throughout the county and then even the other counties surrounding us, and they’re really trying to figure out (how we) can we meet the need for all of these kids and families that are really, really struggling after loved ones have died.”