Grand Rapids camp gives fun to children facing grief

Geoff Preston
Grand Rapids Press

Grand Rapids — Childhood summers are supposed to be carefree, but when a young person or their family member is diagnosed with cancer or is grieving, sometimes they need a little help recapturing what it means to be lighthearted.

Camp Sparkle aims to give kids some of those traditional summer experiences.

The free day camp is funded through Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids. It runs every Tuesday for six weeks in July and August.

Helping children heal is the camp’s main purpose, but participants also learn about different cultures and have more than a little fun.

“We work with different cultural groups to try to give the students a well-rounded cultural experience,” licensed clinical social worker Jacqueline Scherer said.

The camp tries to be a place where children can grieve and receive support.

“When children are affected by cancer or grief, they do tend to talk,” Scherer said. “The structure of the camp opens up that avenue for understanding.”

Scherer said her favorite part of running the camp is seeing how the children bond over their situations.

“We allow for as much flexibility as we can to take away from additional stress,” she said. “It’s so great to watch the kids bond through their tough, shared experiences.”