When he was just seven years old, Forrest Ficke experienced the unthinkable; his father took his own life. Confused and hurt, Ficke could not express nor contain his roiling emotions. “Mentally and physically, I was suffering more and more. I wasn’t getting better. I couldn’t have even said what better would be,” remembers Ficke, now 19. His mother, trying to manage her own grief and parent three children, was desperate to find help. She discovered a new camp, located right in Rhode Island – HopeHealth’s Camp BraveHeart for grieving children.
The premise of Camp BraveHeart is that children, faced with the loss of a loved one, don’t experience grief the way adults do. HopeHealth grief counselor and Camp BraveHeart director, Sarah Cordeiro, explains: “because family members are deep in their own emotions, a child may be left behind, misunderstood. Camp BraveHeart is designed to be a safe place where kids – in their own way, in their own time – can talk about their feelings with other kids who have experienced loss.”
Ficke has attended Camp BraveHeart since 2007. “That first summer, I found people – the other kids and adults who were volunteering – who I could relate to and who really understood what I was going through, because they were going through it, too.” Forrest has joined the camp for the last two years as a volunteer counselor. “As a counselor, I am part of the team that shows other kids that they can get through this. My goal is to make sure these kids understand that no matter what, there is someone there for them, a shoulder to lean on for the rest of their lives.”
My goal is to make sure these kids understand that no matter what, there is someone there for them.
Twelve years after his first camp experience, Ficke is ready to fulfill his own goals. He begins basic training in the Army reserves this fall, with the goal of becoming a Military Police Officer in the Canine Unit. “It has taken me a long time to heal, but I am ready make my dreams come true. I know today I can do it. I have my BraveHeart friends who I can call on anytime. They have my back through it all.”
Camp BraveHeart Supported by Donations
Funded entirely through philanthropic gifts, the two-day Camp BraveHeart program is offered free of charge to campers ages 4 to17. Thanks to the support of generous donors, all fees are covered, including tuition, meals and snacks, and bus transportation. More than 130 campers participated this August at the Rhode Island location at Camp Aldersgate in North Scituate. A second camp location was added this summer in North Attleboro, MA, serving over 50 young survivors through the generous support of the Hockomock YMCA, which provided facilities and certified ropes course staff for HopeHealth campers.