Camp Erin Feature Story: Sarina and Nipun Desai

Video Transcript:

I’m Erica Smith, Child Life Specialist for Faith Presbyterian Hospice and Camp Director for Camp Erin DFW.
Camp Erin is a family overnight camp for families grieving the loss of a loved one. This camp was founded in honor of Erin Metcalf. Her goal was to provide support for children as she saw a need for that as she was going through her own cancer treatment before she passed at age 17. Last year Faith Presbyterian Hospice partnered with the Eluna Network to pilot one of the first Camp Erin family camps and this year we doubled the size of the camp for year two!
This year at camp we followed one of our veteran campers, Sarina Desai, and her father, Nipun, to provide a better glimpse into what goes on at camp and how this, and the other programs we offer, have helped Sarina as she works through her grief from losing her mother unexpectedly a year-and-a-half ago.
My name is Sarina and I’m eight years old. I’m Nipun – I’m her father
We started camp by allowing each family to share the person they were honoring as they placed their photo on the memory board. We then facilitated various exercises to show the children they are not alone in their loss and there are other children who are dealing with similar situations. This helped them begin to form bonds and make new friends.
Throughout camp, participants were guided through a variety of therapeutic activities intended to help them honor and celebrate those they’ve lost. One of these activities was creating a luminary to honor their loved one.
We did the luminaries, so it’s this thing that you can decorate and put a candle inside. You write stuff for your loved one that you lost and put it on the lake at night. I wrote a little message and then a heart with wings.
We worked very hard to have a balance of activities available – so we followed each “heavy” activity with something fun and “light”. Saturday afternoon at Camp Erin DFW, families were encouraged to make new memories together participating in traditional camp-like activities.
I went swimming, pedal boating and I got a snow cone!
After a fun-filled afternoon of swimming, blobbing and more, we had a little setback on the night of the luminary ceremony. A big, Texas rainstorm rolled in delaying our event – but it turned out to be a wonderful gift because just after the storm passed, the most beautiful rainbow appeared. The rainbow holds a very special meaning for Sarina and Nipun.
I told her the first time I think we saw a rainbow after she passed – I told her ‘that’s Mommy looking out for you.” And so I was trying to think of what to do on the luminary and it must came to me – I was like – oh! This would be perfect! And then, of course, shortly later we see a rainbow. And it was just amazing that that happened.
Earlier that day, the children in Sarina’s peer group wrote letters to their loved one to express anything left unsaid before their death and expressing their feelings towards them.
After the luminary ceremony that evening, we had a big, camp bonfire and everyone had the opportunity to put their letter in the fire as a way of sending it up to their loved one. Sarina was one of the only children who wanted to read their letter out loud that night.
I wish you could be here with me. I will always love you and I will always miss you so much.
It’s been amazing to see how Sarina has grown through her grief. She hasn’t missed a single one of our monthly Faith Kids sessions and has participated in our Holiday camp for kids called Camp Faith, two years running. When she first began in our program, Sarina was quiet and would seldom talk freely about her mom’s death, but over the past year-and-a-half, she has blossomed into a leader in her peer group providing support to the new friends she has made.
We are so honored to be part of Sarina’s journey and are happy to see the strides she continues to make.
Anything that’s helping Sarina is helpful for me. I just want her to be happy and just to see her smile and her being so excited and looking forward to this camp since last year.
We asked Sarina if she would be interested in attending Camp Erin again next year if the opportunity presented itself, and she didn’t hesitate with her answer!
Yes! (Exclaimed Sarina) Don’t be so doubtful! (said Nipun.)
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the generosity you provide to make success stories like Sarina’s possible.