Page 35 - Giving Back Guide - 2022
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     amp Swan is a special place for children. They do all the things kids normally do at camp – running, laughing, playing
– but affairs of the heart are also addressed in a loving, nonjudgmental atmosphere. That’s because Camp
Swan is for children ages 7 to 12 who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Children attend the weekend camp at no charge as Camp Swan is sponsored by Canon Hospice’s non-profit affiliate, the Akula Foundation.
“Camp begins on a Friday evening with a fun pizza party. That gets the kids warmed up, and then there are activities throughout the weekend,” said Canon Hospice Administrator Martina Dawson. “We have fun, but there are heart-touching moments too. We’ve learned that rotating the fun activities with more serious ones works best.”
With a staff of licensed mental health specialists, students studying in the field of mental health and volunteers, campers are encouraged to open up and talk about their grief. “We try to have one counselor to one camper for
counseling,” Dawson said.
Among the more serious activities is decorating memory
boxes for campers to remember and honor their loved ones. “This activity helps them discuss their grief. It’s therapeutic,” she added. “Parents love it.”
Dawson points out that family members may observe that a child has trouble sleeping or acts out or gets lower grades at school after the death of a loved one. “These are ways children sometimes deal with grief,” she said.
Outside speakers are also brought in and in the past have included former professional football player Joe Horn and the pet therapy team from Keesler Air Force Base.
A balloon release on the beach is the camp’s closing activity. Each camper writes a note to their deceased loved one and puts it inside a balloon. “The reference is that they’re shipping it off to heaven,” Dawson said.
At the end of the camp, parents are given a full report about their children that includes information about any recommendations for future treatment.
Camp dates for 2023 have not been determined and will be posted on the Canon Hospice website.
 228.575.6251 • or
December 2022 - Giving Back Guide | 35
                 Camp Swan has fun and therapy for children in need
story by Lynn Lofton photos courtesy of Canon Hospice and the Akula Foundation

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