Camp Kerry

New Westminster, BC

ADOPTED BY 

SHIRLEY BARNETT

Heather Mohan, Executive Director at Camp Kerry

From the mother of a 6-year old client:

“My daughter has been attending Music Therapy for the last two months at Camp Kerry. She has been participating bi-weekly, but she has enjoyed it so much that we are starting to do weekly sessions. She loves to pick her own songs that are meaningful to her, and it has helped her relieve some of her grief after the death of her baby sister. She says that “Music Therapy is calming, mindful and helps you relax.” When she is in her sessions, she is focused and happy.
The ukulele and singing has given her another avenue to express her emotions. We are so thankful for this opportunity.”

Camp Kerry is the only family-centred bereavement program in BC with a provincial reach. Music therapy services at Camp Kerry are provided by a team of accredited music therapists who are experienced in hospice/palliative and bereavement care. Through the music therapy programs of Camp Kerry participants are given the opportunity to access both verbal and non-verbal modalities to help them express the wide range of intense emotions that grieving brings. They are very proud to have the largest team of music therapists working together in the province of BC! Ever since Camp Kerry was first established in 2007, music therapy has been an integral part of grief support services and programs. They have now facilitated over 24 sessions of their signature program “Camp Kerry” (a four-day family bereavement retreat) and music therapy has been a core part of every single retreat.

In the past year music therapy has specifically been implemented in the following Camp Kerry
Society programs:

1. Camp Kerry Counselling Services (in-person and online)
2. Synergy: Camp Kerry Community Choirs (in-person and online)
3. Circles of Strength: Child/Youth/Family Grief Support Groups (in-person)
4. Music Therapy Workshops (in-person and on-line)
5. Kaleidoscope 2020: A Virtual Grief Convention for Families and Professionals

Demographic

The organization provides support, education and counselling services (many of which are delivered through music therapy and other expressive arts therapy modalities) for children, youth and adults who are coping with serious illness, loss and grief. They are currently providing services for approximately 300-400 children, youth, adults and families who come from urban, rural and remote communities all over British Columbia. Clients range from 1 to 80 years of age.

How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at Camp Kerry?

Through music therapy in both individual and group settings, participants are able to access emotional support and build new coping strategies that assist them to navigate their grieving process in healthy ways. Participants regularly describe an enhanced sense of overall coping and personal well-being, as well as an improved sense of connection and communication within their family. They also consistently report a decreased sense of isolation in their grief and a stronger sense of community and belonging. Music making, toe-tapping, community-connecting musical programs and encounters build friendships, relieve stress, deliver positive endorphins and provide cathartic, meaningful outlets for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one.

Traditional grief counselling is typically limited to standard one-hour appointments in an office setting one-on-one with a therapist and rarely takes creative, unique or community-based forms.

At Camp Kerry they take a different approach. They believe in harnessing the love, compassion and creativity of an entire community to support and embrace those who are grieving. Instead of limiting their work to a few in-office counselling sessions, they engage participants for the longterm; most of their clients work with them for two to three years.

How has COVID-19 impacted the program?

Fortunately there have been no reductions in music therapy services at Camp Kerry however a lot of adaptation was required. In response to the Covid-19 restrictions, all choirs, workshops and individual music therapy sessions were moved to a secure online platform using Zoom. While most of the participants are looking forward to the day when they can safely resume in-person groups and sessions, they are also very grateful for the online options they have been given to connect and experience ongoing support through Camp Kerry’s music therapy program. They plan to continue online formats until it is safe to run in-person sessions again.

 

Your support will assist Camp Kerry in increasing music therapy services for 2021, by funding the wages needed in order to deliver individual music therapy sessions – which have been extremely well-received in this past year; particularly during the pandemic.

Last year they provided 82 individual music therapy sessions, and a total of 210 clients served through group sessions. Their goal in 2021 is to increase that number to 150 individual music therapy sessions. The organization is experiencing a growing demand for individual music therapy sessions; particularly for bereaved children and youth and they hope to be able to meet these requests by having a music therapist available almost every week of the year to serve these kids.

*Bobby is a fourteen-year old youth who has been attending individual music therapy sessions provided by Camp Kerry for the past six months after the sudden death of his brother. Prior to connecting with us, his mother had set up appointments with three different grief counsellors; her son would go to one appointment and then refuse to return. Since his weekly music therapy sessions began, Bobby has never been late or missed a single session. His mom reported back to us that his music therapist is “the only one he opens up to.” This is how she further describes the impact of music therapy on her son. “My son is not someone who opens up about his feelings or even wants to really talk to me. When it came to the loss of his brother, he is even more closed up, and does not talk about this loss to anyone. Finally, through music therapy, and a common interest in playing guitar, he has found someone to truly connect with.

His music therapist has such a positive attitude and is such a great mentor to Bobby. After every session I hear him practicing his guitar and he comes up with the most amazing songs. Music therapy really brings out his creativity which I am always amazed at – especially given how closed-off he has been since he lost his brother. I think it’s really hard for kids to find a sense of belonging after a major loss. Bobby shuts himself in his room most of the time alone. Recently he has just started playing his late brother’s guitar. I can see a bit more of him connecting to his brother’s memories, even though he still won’t talk about what happened. I want to say thank-you for offering this program and for your dedication to helping youth impacted by loss and grief. I know that music therapy is helping Bobby in a way that nothing
else has.”

*Name changed to protect client confidentiality.

Alexina davis

Alexina is a Certified Music Therapist who has been enthusiastically participating in Camp Kerry programs since 2014. In 2015, she attended her first camp and became part of the music therapy team. That year, she also joined Synergy, the Camp Kerry Choir, as a volunteer in the pilot program. Since then, she has directed the choir for several terms, led the music team in the BC, Ontario and Atlantic camps and helped to facilitate many of Camp Kerry’s children’s grief support groups (Circles of Strength).

Aspen
Switzer

Aspen is a Certified Music Therapist who in another life was an award-winning singer/songwriter who recorded and toured nationally and internationally. She now works as a music therapist specializing in hospice and bereavement care. Aspen has been leading Camp Kerry’s Community Choirs and Beyond One Voice workshops for people living with serious illness, grief and loss for the past five years. She is also a regular contributor to the Society’s youth program music-based recording and performing initiatives.

Luke Burton

Luke is a Certified Music Therapist and a singer/songwriter with many years of experience as a performer, therapist, group facilitator and community choir co-leader. He has been a member of the Camp Kerry team since 2017 first working in Ontario, and currently in British Columbia where he facilitates groups, workshops and individual music therapy sessions for adults, children and youth.

You can help us reach more Canadians with the healing power of music. We invite you to give the gift of music to provide hope, strength, relief and encouragement to Canadians in need.

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