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Children's Hospital opens summer camp to help kids cope with loss of sibling

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 11:15 a.m.
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC opens a bereavement camp for children Aug. 18-20.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC opens a bereavement camp for children Aug. 18-20.

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is opening a three-day summer camp for bereaved kids who lost a sibling.

More than 50 children between ages 7 and 17 are expected to attend “Camp Wakchazi,” which runs Aug. 18 to 20 at Camp Kon-O-Kwee Spencer YMCA in Fombell.

“Wakchazi is a Native American word for sunflower, which we chose because we believe that our group of siblings who have lost a brother or sister are like sunflowers — strong, resilient and finding the light on dark days,” Riley Herrmann, coordinator of Camp Wakchazi, said in a statement.

“The loss of a sibling turns a child's whole world upside down,” Herrmann said. “At camp, kids can have fun in a safe place where they are the focus, not their loss. They can talk about their experience as much or as little as they'd like, surrounded by people who can relate.”

Activities include rock climbing, archery, swimming, campfires and other arts and crafts.

Volunteer peer counselors who also have experienced the death of a sibling will participate.

“Having experienced the death of my younger sister, I understand the situation the campers are in,” Deidra Balchak, 23, said. “I'm volunteering for Camp Wakchazi because I want to take part in a weekend that allows kids and teens to have their feelings validated about a sibling dying and helps them feel less alone.”

Camp Wakchazi received financing from the A.J. and Sigismunda Palumbo Charitable Trust, Miracles from Maggie and Layups for Lucy.

For more information, click here.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991, bschmitt@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @Bencschmitt.

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