BIG BAY — When a loved one passes away, it can be a tough thing for anyone to deal with. That’s especially true for children and teenagers.

To help them deal with losing someone, there’s an upcoming free camp that’s all about helping kids and teens get through such a devastating time in their lives.

Camp STAR is gearing up for it’s fifth year at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay. The camp, designed for kids between the ages of eight and sixteen, makes them the center of attention for an entire weekend.

Each camper is paired one–on–one with a buddy. With the camp about a month away, officials are still looking for male volunteers.

“We’re looking for someone who can handle an emotional weekend,” said Jean Hetrick, board member for Camp STAR. “For a buddy, you are with a camper 24/7 for the weekend. You are giving that camper the one–on–one attention so that they feel safe and secure.”

Camp STAR is also still accepting applications for kids to attend the camp. This year’s camp is August 12th through the 14th.

If you’re interested in becoming a male volunteer for the weekend, click here.

MARQUETTE — Camp Star is in desperate need of male camp buddies; a one-on-one camp counselor for male children at camp on August 12th – 14th at Bay Cliff. Buddies should be 19 years old or older. “The fact we need more male buddies means more young boys are taking advantage of grief support for the loss of a loved one,” said Camp organizer Samantha Collins. Contact Camp Star if interested.

^ Two years ago, HBO aired a documentary called “One Last Hug.” The documentary exemplifies the importance of organizations similar to Camp Star. UPCBN uses the Youtube video as a reference to help others understand the goals of Camp Star.

Camp Star is a bereavement camp designed for children ages 8-16 who have experienced death of a parent, friend or loved one. A weekend camp filled with traditional, fun, camp activities combined with grief education and emotional support, activities are facilitated by caring, trained professionals and volunteers.

Death is a difficult subject for anybody; for grown adults and the elderly alike. It’s something humanity doesn’t understand in its entirety, and grieving for a loved-one can be a very personal introspective process. But, imagine it through a child’s eyes.

Imagine being 8 years old and experiencing the death of a loved one, a sibling, a friend, a grandparent, even your parents. How do you begin to understand? A child who experiences tragic loss is thrown into a very unfamiliar environment. Emotions are torrential, the world is spinning. The feeling of abandonment, loneliness, and deep sense of loss can be overwhelming. Grieving children can struggle to find peers who truly understand, and many lack adult mentors to help them adequately grieve.

The Upper Peninsula Children’s Bereavement Network (UPCBN) has been providing a forum for children in the Upper Peninsula to channel grief in a healthy, productive, and empathetic way.

Grieving children are not always looking for sympathy, they’re looking for empathy – someone who understands, and other children who have been through the same thing. Every year, Bay Cliff Health Camp is taken over for a long weekend by the UPBCN’s ‘Camp Star’ program to help facilitate expressions of grief by combining them with fun-filled traditional camp activities.

noun \bi-ˈrēv-mənt, bē-\
: the state of being sad because a family member or friend has recently died
: the death of a family member or friend

“I have been a group leader for the past two camps. I come home both energized and exhausted,” said UPCBN Board Member Jean Hetrick. “Each camper comes with a unique story behind their grief. It is not a therapy camp but it does help them discover language for the emotion of grieving. One has to come to camp to experience and understand it,” said Hetrick.

Children can plan on the fun camp experiences along with meaningful activities that help them understand they are not alone on this journey.

About 25 campers are expected to bunk up at Bay Cliff Health Camp this August. All campers share cabins with other campers their age. The kids at Camp Star are all coming because someone they loved died. Camp Buddies guide them throughout the weekend activities and become a friend for the whole weekend. A Camp Buddy is someone 18-25 years old; and all have gone through specialized training to help Star Campers gain the most out of their experience.

Campers bring photos of the person who died, keepsakes, trinkets and anything that reminds them of their lost loved one. The program aids children in the grieving process through various activities aimed to help children celebrate life and having fun while doing it.

According to UPCBN, when the children return home, many are excited to share all their camp experiences, but it is very normal to see an increase in the expressions of grief–crying, talking and even anger.

“This is a healthy sign that they have understood that grief is okay to share and they are progressing forward. Some children are, by nature, more quiet and reflective and may need more time to process their camp experience before they are ready to share.”

Campers and Volunteers, Camp STAR 2014

Campers and Volunteers, Camp STAR 2014

Hetrick says it’s a weekend like no other. “Camp Star provides a traditional, fun filled camp experience where the camper is the center of attention, not the grief,” said Hetrick. Camp Star is an essential component of our community – it is group-healing for our youth. The program relies on the support and generosity of donors and sponsors to impact children in a way that will aid emotional growth for a lifetime.

The camp combats loneliness and confusion with friendship and shared healing. Grieving children form friendships with other children their own age who can truly tell each other “I know how you feel.” It can help them develop a better understanding of a mutual sorrow, and it’s life changing. It all happens through shared stories, a group hug, or even a good cry around a camp-fire.

Camp Star is 100% free. Activities begin on the second Friday in August and will end Sunday afternoon. Check in with the Upper Peninsula Children’s Bereavement Network website ( for exact times as camp get closer. Camp Star takes place at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, Michigan. It is the primary program of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Bereavement Network, a 501(c)(3), not for profit organization that relies solely on donations. If you are able to make a donation a child’s life will be forever changed.

For more information on this year’s activities, volunteer information, to donate, or register a child to participate, visit