Childhood bereavement camp featured in HBO special


 ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP debuts April 14th on HBO offering an intimate look at national Camp Erin® program

Anchorage, AK– A unique program that helps children cope with the loss of someone close to them will be featured in a moving documentary set to premiere exclusively on HBO on April 14th at 8PM (ET/PT).

ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP features The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin® program, the nation’s largest network of childhood bereavement camps, including a location in Anchorage, AK, offered in partnership with Hospice of Anchorage’s (HOA’s) Forget Me Not Grief Program and The Moyer Foundation.

“As a society, we tend to overlook how children are affected by grief,” said Bryan Talbott-Clark, Executive Director of Hospice of Anchorage. “There’s tremendous need out there for the kind of support Camp Erin provides, and we encourage people to watch this powerful, inspiring film. It truly captures the effect that sharing, friendship and emotional support can have on children dealing with extraordinary loss.”

One in seven children in the United States will experience the death of a loved one before age 20, but few are prepared to deal with the grief that follows. At Camp Erin, children learn that they are not alone in their grief. The fun, familiar environment of camp is combined with planned activities that give children a chance to honor their loved ones, express their feelings and make lasting friendships with their peers facing a similar life circumstance. Led by grief professionals and trained volunteers, Camp Erin helps children learn to cope and to heal.

Camp Erin Anchorage has served more than 240 Alaskan children since 2009.

Camp Erin was created and is supported by The Moyer Foundation founded by World Series Champion pitcher and Philadelphia Phillies baseball analyst, Jamie Moyer and his wife Karen. With 43 locations nationwide, including camps in every Major League Baseball city, Camp Erin serves over 2,500 children annually.

Other HBO playdates: April 17 (8:30 a.m.), 19 (4:00 p.m.), 23 (2:45 p.m.), 27 (9:15 a.m.) and 29 (5:45 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates: April 16 (8:00 p.m.)

HOA’s Forget Me Not Grief Program and Camp Erin Anchorage 

As part of HOA’s community grief and loss services, the Forget Me Not Grief program offers year-round peer support to all members of a grieving family.  Children, teens and the adults who love them meet 2x a month on scheduled Thursday evenings in age-related groups. Participants experience comfort and encouragement as they share time, feelings and activities related to their grief with others in their age group.  One basic rule of Forget Me Nots is the "I pass" rule.  No one is pressured to share.  Families join when they're ready and stay as long as they'd like.  

  Camp Erin Anchorage is an annual weekend grief camp for children and teens, ages 6-17 years. HOA’s Forget Me Not Grief Program partners with The Moyer Foundation to offer the camp each fall to Alaskan children who have lost a special person in their life to death. There is no charge to participant families.   For more information about these programs, please contact Jane Barber, the FMN Program Coordinator and Camp Erin Anchorage Director, for more information.


When children arrive at Camp Erin Los Angeles, the camp location featured in the film, counselors and volunteers greet them with open arms. “We’re so proud of you campers,” says Lauren Schneider, clinical director of OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center, at an opening ceremony with parents and campers. “It takes a lot of courage to come to grief camp.” One by one, the campers introduce themselves and share the names of lost loved ones, pinning photos of them to the camp’s memory board. Although there are tears, the campers support each other with applause. By the end, the wall is filled with an array of pictures, of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, a testament to the magnitude of their loss.


Besides the sadness that children feel when they lose a loved one, there is also a sense of loneliness. “For how many of you guys is this the first time you’ve sat in a group of people your age and told someone?” asks counselor Chrissie, after a group of seven- and eight-year-old girls share their loss. Every girl raises her hand.


At Camp Erin, although the campgrounds, cabins and activities resemble any other camp, every aspect of the experience is geared towards sharing, support and healing. One group ventures out on a scavenger hunt, in search of colorfully painted rocks, bearing a different “feelings” word. “Angry. We can pretty much all describe that,” says camper Samantha when the first stone is found. While other girls readily discuss the anger they feel over their loss, one camper, Audrey, has a hard time engaging. In an outside interview, her mother Catherine reveals that Audrey’s father died of suicide. “I’m sure they feel isolated…I know other children say, ‘My dad died of cancer,’ whereas my children just leave out the how,” she says.


Another counselor encourages a group of older children to think of a happy memory with the person who died. Erin, who attends the camp with her brothers, recalls her terminally ill father making it to her soccer game, which she won. Looking back on the exercise, she says that “remembering the happy thoughts that I shared felt good. Very good.”


Camper Nicole’s mother was the victim of a violent crime. At home, her father hopes for the best, but has concerns for the future. “I’m trying to be mom and dad for her, but she needs somebody to teach her things that I cannot teach,” he says.


While other campers play in the pool, Audrey finally opens up to camp director Lauren and other children. “I guess I was angry because I had no idea that it was going to happen,” she says, as a friend gives her a hug of support.


On the last night of camp, director Lauren welcomes everyone to the Luminary Ceremony, which takes place by the pool, asking, “How many of you got to say goodbye to your person before they died? Put your hands up.” Only a few raise hands. Each child holds a lantern decorated with drawings and messages for the loved one who died, which once lit, illuminates the dark night as it floats over the water in a final farewell.


On the last day, parents and other family members return for the closing ceremony. In a Camp Erin tradition, the campers join hands in a big circle and pass “the squeeze of friendship and support.” When the campers and counselors perform songs and chants for their enthusiastic audience, the feeling of camaraderie and the new friendships are apparent. All the children wear matching orange camp t-shirts signed and embellished by their friends. As they head back home, the children are connected by more than an experience of great loss. They share memories of Camp Erin, the feeling of being supported, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.


Director Irene Taylor Brodsky’s previous HBO credits include the Peabody Award winning documentary “Hear and Now,” “Saving Pelican 895” and “The Final Inch,” which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Documentary Short. Producer Greg DeHart is a two-time Emmy®-nominated director whose films include, “S-21: Inside Pol Pot’s Secret Prison.” Producer/editor Paul Freedman is an Emmy-nominated and Peabody award winning filmmaker whose credits include, “Rwanda—Do Scars Ever Fade?”


ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP is produced in Association with The Moyer Foundation, OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center, and New York Life Foundation; directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky; produced by, Greg DeHart and Paul Freedman; editor, Paul Freedman; director of photography, Peter Richardson. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.


Hospice of Anchorage press release