Variety Provides Funding for Children’s Grief Programs

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Tuesday, August 15, 2023


Amanda the Panda Grief and Loss Camp: Barbara and Sam

Barbara* reached out to Amanda the Panda (ATP) staff in the Summer of 2022 seeking grief support services for herself and her 8-year-old son Sam* after the death of her husband to cancer. Since the family resides outside of the Des Moines metro area, they chose to register for the Fall Grief & Loss Overnight Weekend Camp in lieu of weekly support group meetings. Variety provided a grant to EveryStep Foundation Grief and Loss Services (Amanda the Panda) for supplies & materials for children’s grief programs - which funded grief camps, support groups, and cheer boxes for families like Barbara's and Sam's.


ATP staff helped Barbara and Sam complete registration and took time to answer questions and concerns leading up to the camp experience. Like most families, they were a bit nervous for the weekend, but staff welcomed them and checked on them throughout their experience to ensure their comfort.


Campers participated in a variety of activities that offered the chance to connect with peers, honor, and remember their loved ones, all while learning resiliency and healthy coping skills. One of the sessions Sam participated in was the “Puppet Activity”. The Puppet Activity helps youth to identify emotions they have felt while grieving and to express them through a creative medium. The session incorporates a story called “Inside Out”, which speaks to different emotions people experience during life’s difficult challenges and changes. After reading the book, camp participants are guided to create their own puppets mirroring the book characters and to identify their own emotions as a unique expressive outlet.


Sam and Barbara also expressed their feelings through art in the “Love and Anger Walls” activity. For the Love Wall, campers shared a special memory or message to their loved one on large, poster-sized paper. The Love Wall art was then displayed to memorialize loved ones. For the Anger Wall, campers were encouraged to share anything that has made them feel angry after their special person died. The campers were then invited to throw eggs at their angry thoughts, to help them release their emotions. Both of these activities were therapeutic in guiding campers to identify emotions that may be difficult to say out loud and allowed them to see that others were experiencing the same feelings. It is helpful for people who are grieving to know that they are not alone in their experience.


After the campers returned home, ATP staff received the following note from Barbara: “I just want to thank you and all the staff for hosting the grief camp. While it's still recent and more processing is needed, l have noticed that my tears are less about despair now and more reflective of sadness. Sam has learned to talk about his emotions from the puppets activity, and seems a little bit less moody when l pick him up from school. So, thank you and your team, and all the participants, for making this a positive experience for us!”


Barbara and Sam also received a Cheer Box over the holidays and were very grateful. Sam sent back a heartwarming handwritten thank you note with drawings and requested that ATP staff write him back. The staff enjoyed creating a fun letter with stickers in response to Sam’s note, and continue to stay in touch with Barbara to provide guidance as needed.

*Names have been changed.

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