Camp Erin DFW Restores, Delights and Creates Community

Nestled in the rolling hills of central Texas, just a few miles due south of the famed Camp Longhorn, lies a beautiful oasis named Camp Buckner. This special camp is a faith-based nonprofit that serves vulnerable children, families and seniors and was the perfect partner for the second year of Camp Erin DFW, the family grief camp created in conjunction with the Children’s Bereavement Program at Faith Presbyterian Hospice (FPH).

“The goal of Camp Erin is to bring together families who are grieving. They often feel like they are alone in their loss, so bringing them together at Camp Erin allows us to build a sense of community among other grievers. It’s kind of like the club that they didn’t ask to be put into — that they got put into, and once they get there, they realize there are a lot of other people in this club as well,” said Erica Smith, Camp Erin DFW Camp Director.

Camp Erin is named in memory of Erin Metcalf, a remarkable young woman who developed liver cancer when she was 15 years old. Karen and Jamie Moyer met Erin through Make-A-Wish, and developed a special bond with Erin and her family. Erin had a compassionate heart, and when she was hospitalized she often expressed concern for the other children in the hospital, as well as their siblings, who sometimes received little attention.

In 2000, when Erin died at the age of 17, Jamie and Karen Moyer wished to honor Erin’s memory and her caring spirit. Acknowledging her love of children and her desire to help others, the Moyers felt a grief camp for children would be an appropriate tribute. The first Camp Erin was established by The Moyer Foundation in 2002, to honor Erin’s passion for life and desire to help other kids and teens. Now there are almost 45 Camp Erin locations across the country, and more than 12,500 campers have attended Camp Erin.

FPH and the Forefront Living Foundation (FLF) partnered with Eluna and New York Life (NYL) to make Camp Erin DFW possible again this year. Click here to learn more about these special partnerships. FPH piloted the first family camp in 2022 and due to its success, Eluna requested this year’s camp double in size. The success of the piloted program inspired Eluna to partner with other organizations across the country to provide this type of program vs. their traditional children’s camp model in which children are paired with a camp counselor and no family adults are present. Because of the generosity of these and other donors, twenty-three families from across the state of Texas attended this summer’s camp. The majority hailed from the DFW area, but there were also families attending from Houston, Austin, East Texas and surrounding areas.

Throughout the weekend, activities were planned in the picturesque setting to facilitate the campers talking and bonding with others in similar situations. When a “heavy” exercise, such as the Memory Board Ceremony, was planned, it was immediately followed up with a “light” activity, such as karaoke.

“This heavy/light combination was purposely planned to demonstrate that happy and sad can coexist and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said.

All camp activities went off without a hitch, save for a rainstorm that rolled in across the majestic hill country about thirty minutes prior to the Luminary Ceremony on Saturday evening. While it briefly postponed the solemn event, it brought with it a symbolism that was perfect for grief camp…the rainstorm was followed by a beautiful, double-rainbow!

“When I see a rainbow it means my mommy is looking down and smiling at me,” said Sarina Desai, an eight-year-old camper who lost her mother due to an unexpected cardiac event 16 months ago.

“The rainbows we saw tonight are the perfect metaphor for grief. They appear to remind us that we can weather any storm together,” Smith said.

As camp wrapped just before noon on Sunday, a different, more celebratory vibe, filled the air as the campers exchanged phone numbers and took photos with their newfound friends. Hugs, happy tears and most importantly, HOPE, were abundant.

“My favorite part of camp was making new friends who have also lost a parent. I’m the only kid at my school who has lost her mommy and it makes me happy to be friends with other kids like me,” Sarina said.

When asked if she would like to return to camp next year, Sarina exclaimed “YES!” without any hesitation!

“We hope that the families leave with that sense of community and knowing they are not alone,” said Erica Smith, Camp Erin DFW Camp Director.


Camp Erin DFW Daily Schedule:


3:00-5:00 p.m. Families arrive (registration, check-in, settle in cabins)
5:30-5:45 p.m. Welcome/Introduction of staff/review rules
5:45-6:00 p.m. Circle Up: Icebreaker-Support Circle
6:00-7:00 p.m. Dinner
7:00-8:00 p.m. Erin’s Story and Memory Board Ceremony (campers brought a picture or object to honor their loved one)
8:00-10:00 p.m. Get to know you (Get-to-know you BINGO, Karaoke and dance party)


8:00-9:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:00-9:15 a.m. Gather in peer groups
9:15-10:15 a.m. Grief Activities: Luminary Project, Music/Movement therapy, Creative writing (Draw-It Out/Ink It Out)/Art activity and care givers had a separate, ongoing session to attend together
10:30-11:30 a.m. Grief Activities: (second rotation)
11:30-12:00 p.m. All Group Activity
12:00-1:00 p.m. Lunch
1:15-2:15 p.m. Grief Activities: (final rotation)
2:15-5:30 p.m. Family time
Available activities: Canoeing/Kayaking, Swimming, Waterslide, Blob, Disc-golf, fishing at the pond, activities at the pavilion, nature walk
5:30-6:00 p.m. Family and group photos
6:00-7:00 p.m. Dinner
7:00-8:00 p.m. Luminary Ceremony on the lake
8:00-9:00 p.m. Campfire singalong and s’mores

8:00-9:00 a.m. Breakfast
9:15-10:15 a.m. Closing Ceremony
10:30-11:00 a.m. Family and group pictures, t-shirt signing and dismissal

Special thanks to the following individuals who spent many evenings leading up to camp and the weekend at Camp Buckner, to help make Camp Erin DFW a success:

Rachel Aviner
Denise Brame
Isaac Conner
Patricia Cree
Jennefer Dixon
Jacob Fabacher
Lisa Frank
Sarah Jones
Deborah “DJ” Julumus
Landrey King
Kristin Mathes
Binu Mathews
Jennifer Moreau

Mason Moreau
Kacie Morgan
Jan Patterson
Alyssa Price
Christina Raville
Anne Sanchez
Christy Shannon
Carol Smith
Erica Smith
Regina Taylor
Wendy Van Bemmel
Nelson West