Renita Mixson had her first experience with Haven in 2012. She had just lost her husband suddenly and contacted Haven to explore bereavement support options for her and her teenage son. As a result, Mixson, her son and her 4-year-old goddaughter attended Camp Safe Haven that year.
Camp Safe Haven is offered by Haven at no cost for children and youth who have lost a loved one. Children suffering a loss can often benefit from the development of coping skills to handle their emotions. Supported by Haven’s professionals and volunteers for over 15 years, Camp Safe Haven provides fun and therapeutic activities to help children work through feelings of grief. Haven will hold two more camps in 2018, one on Saturday, September 29, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Haven Custead Hospice Care Center at 745 Blanding Boulevard in Orange Park and one on Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Haven E.T. York Hospice Care Center at 4200 NW 90th Boulevard in Gainesville.
“Camp was so important for my son because it helped him learn not to hold it in. The information they provided me also helped me look for warning signs to make sure he was doing ok,” said Renita Mixson. “He carried the burden for a long time and felt responsible because he could not save his dad. Camp Safe Haven helped him talk about it and understand that there wasn’t anything he could do.”
Camp Safe Haven is free and open to children and youth, ages 5-18, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, regardless of how that loss occurred. Attendance at camp will give participants the tools they need to acknowledge that a change in their life has occurred and to accept that change through a three step approach:
- Encourage participants to deal with their feelings of loss
- Empower participants to learn how to manage those feelings
- Enlighten participants with the understanding that grieving is a natural process, it’s ok to feel sad, and it’s ok to express their feelings.
Mixson’s husband was in the process of enrolling in Haven’s services when he passed, but was never cared for by Haven. However, she had such a positive experience with Haven that she was compelled to reach out following the unexpected loss of another loved one. “My first experience with Haven and Camp Safe Haven was awesome. I can’t really describe it any other way,” said Mixon. “So when my mom passed away earlier this year, I already knew who to call.”
This time, Mixson was reaching out about a second visit to Camp Safe Haven for her now 9-year-old goddaughter, Ariyuna Coleman. “I felt like losing my mom who is a grandma to her would be very difficult,” said Mixson. “It is a big thing for anyone to lose a loved one, but their grandma was always there.”
Coleman found value in both of her visits to Camp Safe Haven. “I really enjoyed all the fun activities we did at camp. The staff are really nice and they helped me a lot. They taught me how to do art and art helped me calm down,” said Coleman who shared that some of her favorite things to paint are boxes, flowers and hearts.
In addition to the valuable coping skills provided by Camp Safe Haven, it also offers campers the opportunity to meet grievers who are going through similar experiences. “Going to camp really lets you know that you’re not by yourself. As a young widow I didn’t really feel like there would be other people going through what I was going through,” said Mixson. “Learning that there were others going through the same thing helped me cope. It really taught me that it is ok to cry and holler.”
To learn more about Camp Safe Haven or to register for an upcoming camp, please visit www.beyourhaven.org/camp or call 1.844.544.4836.