Last summer, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) had a busy season full of events for survivors, from the very youngest to the most mature. We are very pleased to be able to add an event this year specifically for 18–24-year-olds, which is something we have dreamed of for a long time. Many, many thanks to the volunteers, sponsors, and participants who made these events happen and helped create lifetime memories for survivors of all ages.
Hal Bruno Kids Camp: CoCo Key Camp
Orlando, Florida—Ages 4-6
Ten children attended this camp with their mothers. The kids attended sessions with a children’s grief therapist and firefighter volunteers, while the mothers met together with NFFF staff to share stories and concerns. There was also plenty of time for everyone to enjoy the water park right in the hotel, and the moms had some time to relax while the kids were in sessions. Many thanks to the dedicated, energetic firefighter volunteers who helped with transportation and staffing to make this event a success!
Comments from Parents
“The whole program is fantastic. I like how much focus is put into the children. My son had a blast, and he relates to the Hal Bruno camp as “daddy’s friends.” His heart feels better after knowing that other children have a daddy in heaven as well. Because of camp, my son talks freely about daddy without so much sadness.”
“I wanted my child to be able to meet other children with similar life experiences. We were excited for camp but slightly nervous. The camp was helpful for me as the parent and fun for my child. I enjoyed talking with other parents that had the same challenges of raising children with a fallen firefighter parent. I recommend going to the camp at least once because the camp is very helpful and a positive influence in our lives.”
Hal Bruno Kids Camp: Comfort Zone Camp
Bantam, Connecticut—Ages 7-17
This year, 35 children attended the NFFF/Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) program. CZC offers a program that combines a therapeutic component in combination with a dynamic camp setting, allowing campers to process their grief in a fun and safe environment. Structured camp activities provide an pportunity for children from across the country to meet with others in their age group with similar experiences and to learn skills to cope with their loss. Each camper is matched with an adult volunteer “Big Buddy” who is assigned to that camper for the duration of the weekend. While the children were at camp, parents and guardians attended an orientation session at the hotel where they were staying. For the balance of the weekend, they were free to sightsee, shop, or just relax until the closing ceremony at camp on Sunday afternoon.
Comments from Campers
“Thank you for so, so much for giving me the opportunity to attend this camp. It’s really helped me to find others with similar experiences. It’s also fun.”
“I have met some of my closest friends here, and it’s so nice that I can actually talk to people who have been through the same thing.”
Comments from Parents
“I was relieved to have met people that I can relate to. I was very happy both my children had fun, too, and they both want to go back next year. I am relieved there were kids her age and she made friends and connections with them.”
“I LOVED that all of the kids had experienced the same loss of a parent through their service to their community as a firefighter. Meeting other children of firefighters really made my daughter feel as if someone finally understood her new reality.”
Denver, Colorado—Ages 18-25
This year the NFFF partnered with Colorado Outward Bound School to offer a pilot program for young adults who have lost a parent. This seven-day hiking and backpacking course gave these young survivors the opportunity to challenge themselves with new experiences within the context of a group where everyone has experienced a significant loss. Offering this program is a dream come true for us, and we hope to have the funding and interest to continue offering this unique program in the future.
Comments from Participants
“I would like to personally thank you for the opportunity to attend Outward Bound. My brother and I both had life changing experiences, and I will never forget the people and lessons I learned on that adventure.”
“I learned that I am stronger and more capable than I previously thought. Mind over matter is real, and I can do anything I set my mind to.”
2015 Survivors Conference
Annapolis, Maryland—Ages 18-100
The 2015 Survivors Conference was held in Maryland’s historic and scenic capital city, home to the United States Naval Academy and the Maryland Fire-Rescue Services Memorial. Workshops were offered on a variety of topics including writing, hula dancing, establishing memorial scholarships, and dealing with difficult family situations during grief. Evening activities allowed participants to sample the local flavor as they watched the Orioles play, learned to pick blue crabs, and took a dinner cruise on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps most importantly, survivors were able to spend time with one another, establishing and strengthening friendships that will sustain them long after the conference ended.