2024 Camp Erin DFW: A Weekend of Healing, Hope and Connection with Volunteer Linda Yanchuck

Nestled in the tranquil hills of central Texas, near the renowned Camp Longhorn, is Camp Buckner—a sanctuary of solace and renewal. This idyllic location hosted the second annual Camp Erin DFW, a free weekend overnight bereavement camp, from June 14-16, 2024. Designed for youth and families mourning the loss of a loved one, this special camp offers a blend of grief support and traditional camp activities. As the only camp of its kind in Texas, Camp Erin DFW exemplifies the profound impact of community and compassionate care.

Camp Erin DFW, organized in conjunction with the Children’s Bereavement Program at Faith Presbyterian Hospice (FPH), welcomed 23 families this year. Children and teens aged 5 to 18, along with their families, gathered for a weekend filled with grief education, emotional support and fun, traditional camp activities. Under the guidance of bereavement professionals and dedicated volunteers, campers found a safe environment where they could explore their grief, learn essential coping skills,and build meaningful connections with peers facing similar challenges.

One standout volunteer, Linda Yanchuck, flew all the way from Atlanta, Georgia, to participate. Linda, a proud supporter of the Open Hearts Foundation, learned about Camp Erin DFW through social media during the camp last year. Inspired by its mission, she planned her work and took vacation time to visit the Forefront Living and FPH offices before helping at the camp. It seemed like the perfect fit for Linda as her active involvement in the Open Hearts Foundation supports emerging and growing nonprofit organizations. The foundation’s philosophy of helping others and finding purpose through open-hearted actions resonated deeply with Linda’s commitment to Camp Erin DFW.

Reflecting on her experience, Linda shared, “Camp was incredible! First, I need to give a shout out to Erica Smith, Camp Director. She did an amazing job organizing everything and making sure it all ran smoothly. I met so many wonderful people and developed new friendships with the other volunteers and the families. I could see a big difference from when the families arrived Friday night to when they left on Sunday. Some seemed very quiet and didn’t really know what to expect, but by Saturday night they were more talkative and had connected with other families as well as staff.”

For Linda, the most touching moments came from her time with the Littles 1 group, comprising children aged 5 to 7. She recounted a particularly moving session: “Some of the sessions were so touching for me, like the music session when the kids wrote songs for their ‘special person,’ and the music teacher sang their songs. And then the luminary service. On a personal note, it was special and very emotional for me because I was thinking of my mom who passed away 27 years ago and I never got to say goodbye.”

Camp Erin DFW’s success is rooted in the dedication of its team and volunteers. This year, 27 teammates and volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure the camp ran smoothly and that every camper felt supported and valued. The camp’s combination of therapeutic activities and traditional camp fun helped create an atmosphere where healing could begin. Families arrived with heavy hearts but left with lighter spirits, new coping tools and a sense of community.

As Camp Erin DFW continues to grow, it remains committed to providing a compassionate and supportive environment for grieving families. The camp serves as a reminder that through shared experiences and open hearts, healing is possible. For many, like Linda, participating in Camp Erin DFW is not just about giving back but also about finding personal healing and connection while navigating the difficult journey of grief. Learn more about FPH’s Child Bereavement Program here.