Healing Together: A Weekend of Comfort and Community at Camp Erin DFW

Tucked away in the hills of central Texas, a few miles south of the renowned Camp Longhorn, rests a picturesque haven known as Camp Buckner. This faith-based nonprofit camp serves vulnerable children, families and seniors. Recently, it played host for the second time, to Camp Erin DFW, a family grief camp created in conjunction with the Children’s Bereavement Program at Faith Presbyterian Hospice (FPH). This unique camp aims to support families who have experienced loss, providing a sense of community and comfort during their time of grief.

Camp Erin is named in memory of Erin Metcalf, a remarkable young woman who developed liver cancer at 15. Through Make-A-Wish, Erin met Karen and Jamie Moyer, forming a special bond. Erin’s compassionate heart led her to care deeply about other children in the hospital and their siblings, who often received little attention. When Erin passed away 24 years ago, at age 17, the Moyers sought to honor her memory and caring spirit by establishing a grief camp for children. The first Camp Erin was launched in 2002 by The Moyer Foundation, and today, there are nearly 45 Camp Erin locations across the country, serving more than 12,500 campers.

Camp Erin DFW provides a sense of community among grieving families who often feel isolated in navigating this difficult journey alone,” said Erica Smith, Camp Erin DFW Camp Director. In one short weekend at camp, families find connection through similar experiences whether it’s the loss of a spouse, child, parent or sibling. They quickly find they are more alike than they are different and being able to share their feelings and emotions with someone who understands, is a special step in the healing process.”

FPH and the Forefront Living Foundation (FLF) partnered with Eluna and New York Life (NYL) to bring Camp Erin DFW to life once again this year. FPH piloted the very first family camp in 2022, and due to its success, Eluna requested twice as many families attend for years two and three. The Camp Erin DFW model includes entire families, diverging from the traditional format where only children attend and are paired with a camp counselor. The generosity of these organizations and other donors made it possible for twenty-three families from across Texas (DFW, Lubbock, San Antonio and Waco) to attend this summer’s camp with a grand total of 108 attendees.

Throughout the weekend, activities were carefully planned to help campers talk and bond with others in similar situations. After emotionally heavy exercises like sharing about their loved one in the Memory Board Ceremony, lighter activities such as karaoke followed, demonstrating that joy and sorrow can coexist, and there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Based on feedback from the 2023 evaluations, the camp provided more options for adult caregivers, including breakout sessions and free time. A special needs volunteer was also introduced to assist attendees and provide support in various ways. Participation from the community was overwhelming, with Project Linus once again providing personalized blankets, PVN resident Janice Bentley and the Sew ‘N Sews donating handmade teddy bears, New York Life supplying a plethora of snacks and Eluna offering a mini-grant to help families with travel costs. Self-care items were contributed by the community at large through an Amazon Wish List that was shared in advance of camp. All of these gifts made a lasting impact on the campers.

Volunteers played a crucial role in the magical weekend, each shining in unique ways, fostering connections, and nurturing a sense of belonging among the families. This collective effort created an experience filled with healing, hope and togetherness, reaffirming that even in the face of profound loss, no one is ever alone.

The Menezes family their first year attending Camp Erin DFW – 2023
The Menezes family their second year attending Camp Erin DFW – 2024

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:

Denise Brame
Alex Dean
Jennefer Dixon
Claudia Ferrara
Lois Ferrara
Lisa Frank
Ricky Lawson
Jeanne Loman
Aly Martin
Kristin Mathes
Binu Mathews
Dylan Moreau
Jenifer Moreau
Clara Ng

Jan Patterson
Joe Potts
Alyssa Price
Allison Roberts
Carol Smith
Erica Smith
David Spence
Regina Taylor
Nelson West
Rita West
Emily Wilcox
Chelsea Wise
Linda Yanchuck