More than a Placement: A Closer Look at Camp Good Grief

Camp Good Grief

CGG - logoTo help children who have lost loved ones, Camp Good Grief (CGG) started in 1999 as the first bereavement camp in the Mid-South area.  The goal of the free annual camp is to give area children ages six to 12 an enjoyable, accepting and supportive environment, in which they can freely express their feelings about the loss of a loved one. The camp is made possible through a grant from Baptist Memorial Health Care Foundation, partnerships with local businesses, private donations and fundraisers. The two major fundraisers consist of “The Art of Caring” auction and the CGG 5K and 1-mile walk. The 19th annual Art of Caring was held on September 13, at the Grand Carousel Pavilion & Ballroom at the Children’s Museum of Memphis.  The 5K, which was held on September 30 at Memorial Park cemetery, is a family-fun event that also offers food and things such as moon bounces, face painting, and games for the kids.

A few Junior League Members took time to reflect on their placement with Camp Good Grief and how being involved with the camp has been a life-changing experience.

“As I reflect on my Provisional year, I think about the various placements I was exposed to. Although, there are many great placements in the JLM,  it was after viewing the documentary on Camp Good Grief that I decided I really wanted to be a part of the Camp Good Grief placement.  I felt like this would be a good fit for me, as I love working with children and to be able to help kids that have experienced a loss made it more appealing to me. We began preparing for camp in early spring, making the arts and crafts for the children’s various camp projects.  The closer it got to June the more excited I was!  Camp was everything I imagined it would be and more! My only wish is that Camp Good Grief would one day receive funding that would increase the camp from three days to a full week. After camp, I couldn’t stop thinking about my “buddy” and the entire camp experience.  I went on and on about it with a few of my coworkers who happened to be Provisionals last year and as a result, they selected Camp Good Grief as one of their placement choices and actually got it!! Camp Good Grief 5kDuring the summer, I received a call from someone within the Junior League who asked me if I would be I interested in being the chair of Camp Good Grief. Me? Needless to say, I was shocked and surprised and after much thought accepted the position. For me, this was a great opportunity to utilize the skills and knowledge I obtained through the LEAD program and I get to spend another year in a placement I enjoy so much.  Working with Angela Hamblen- Kelly and Melissa Surles from Baptist Hospital and the ladies in the placement has been such an honor and pleasure.  In getting to know the ladies, I discovered several have experienced the great works offered through the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to share.”Jameta Young


art of caring

“My history as a volunteer started while in college as a member of my sorority.  After several years of focusing on career I began looking for a way to get involved in the community again.  During my search, two of my friends spoke highly of the JLM and the opportunities it provides to get involved.  They were right!  From my Provisional year to my now first active year I have had ample opportunities to meet new people and be of service to others.   Camp Good Grief was my placement choice for personal reasons.  On April 29, 2016 my family suffered an unexpected tragedy and in the blink of an eye my nieces were without their mother.  While we as a family stepped in to try to aid them in their hurt, we could never fully understand their grief and quite frankly just did not have all the skills and tools to give them all they needed in their healing process.  I think being a part an awesome ray of hope such as CGG will allow me to develop skills to aid not only my nieces, but so many other youth who are going through similar situations.” –Metrica Spears

Camp Good Grief

“Flashback to April 2013 and I lost my mom. It wasn’t expected, she hadn’t been sick for an extended period of time. It was sudden and it left me in a lost and numb place. My mom’s nurse told me the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief and that was the beginning of navigating my new normal. After months of attending counseling sessions, I was invited to attend an adult Grief Camp. I was nervous and scared and didn’t know what to think. How was a camp, an adult camp mind you, going to help me? Skip ahead and in March 2014 I am at Ducks Unlimited on a Friday night with a bunch of strangers to be with my grief. We had dinner that first night and discussed what was to come the next day. All the work began Saturday morning. We talked in smaller groups throughout the day and I started to feel more at home. There were people that were in my same shoes. Throughout Saturday we would have heavy moments and then the next activity would be outside or making our way “down a path.” This was to help us see that grief can be sad and happy and full of heavy and light moments. We had several activities that included creating concrete garden pavers in memory of our loved one, a collage about our loved one, writing a letter to our loved one, and several group activities.


Courtney’s Collage

 Some of these activities seem elementary, and in the moment they sometimes felt that way, but the healing that came through the small, simple things was amazing. The camp ended Saturday evening when we were able to attach the letter we wrote to a balloon. I remember standing there, about to release my balloon, and feeling sadness but at the same time a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. My grief didn’t disappear with that balloon but, some of my anger and things I was holding on to did. I can never thank the staff of the center enough for what they did for me. For the first time in almost a year, I woke up on Sunday morning a bit lighter and a bit happier. I definitely moved a few steps forward that weekend. The staff and the camp gave me more than I can ever express in words. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. The Camp really helped me move forward. It allowed me dedicated time to work on myself and my grief without the noise from normal life. I still have my grief journal and the collage I made. When I need it I can pull it out of my “grief toolbox” that I keep around. When I learned that Camp Good Grief was a placement I knew it was for me. It spoke to my heart. I wanted to give back to something that gave everything to me. I wanted to help someone walk through a lonely and hard journey if even for a short time. I am so blessed I have that opportunity through the Junior League. Grief is a constant journey and this is just another step in mine.”  –Courtney Ray


Member Spotlight

Tabitha Glenn

What is your favorite placement?

I have treasured all of my placements because I’ve learned how to be a better leader from all of the remarkable women that I’ve volunteered alongside. Yet if I had to pick, it would be the Salvation Army Common Ground placement because it’s where I had my first and most memorable “JLM moment.” The Salvation Army is Memphis’ only shelter dedicated to women and where the Junior League of Memphis provided educational programs for the residents. One night while we were hosting one of these programs, I heard my name called from across the room. I turned and was greeted by a familiar face that I was surprised to find living there at the shelter. It was an acquaintance that I met through work. I was heartbroken to even think about what she must be going through. Yet she was so appreciative that we were there helping to make a positive difference in her life. I was so touched by her kind words and was so proud to be involved with an organization that was helping so many deserving women in our community. This moment reinforced my commitment to the JLM and put a face and personal connection on the outcome of the great work that our JLM women do every day.


Why did you get involved in the JLM?

I joined JLM for three reasons: 1. To serve the underserved while advancing the Memphis community; 2. To broaden my perspective and to learn new skills and 3. To make new life-long friends.


What have you learned from being a member of the JLM?

Being a JLM member has given me the opportunity to challenge myself through a variety of experiences and activities throughout the league. This experience along with the relationships that have been built has also given me the confidence to tackle new opportunities in other areas of my life (like going back to school to get an Executive MBA). Through my placements, I’ve learned how to embrace conflict and I’ve become a better and more purposeful listener.


What advice do you have for other members about choosing a meaningful placement?

My suggestion is to give some intentional thought to where you want to grow as a leader and go from there. For example, if you want to improve your strategic thinking and forecasting abilities, then you can nominate yourself for a board or senior management council position. If you want to work on prioritization and organization, then pick Merry Marketplace. Or if you want to have direct contact with some of the benefactors of our community programs, then check out GROW. There are so many wonderful options to choose from so I’d also recommend talking with other members to hear about their experiences as well. You can do a quick search by placement in the JLM membership online directory to get names and contact info of other members. Or folks can contact me too.


What’s been your favorite GMM location and/or speaker?

There have been so many yet Coach Bill Courtney is one of my favorites. He’s the football coach that inspired the academy award-winning documentary, Undefeated. He taught me not to be a “turkey person” and that “serving and attempting to inspire others is a responsibility, not a choice.” Wise advice that I try and live by every day.


What is your occupation?

I’m honored to serve as the Executive Director at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where I assist a team of fundraising professionals who raise money through direct marketing channels (TV, digital, direct mail and phone). It’s a mission that’s close to my heart because families shouldn’t have to worry about paying medical costs while their child fights to live.


Who has inspired you in your career/field?

The women I work alongside at ALSAC/St. Jude and the women that I volunteer alongside at the Junior League of Memphis. The authenticity and wisdom demonstrated through these dynamic impact makers leaves me in awe every time I see their mighty works in action. This servant leadership inspires me to be a better human.


What is your favorite Memphis restaurant?

Los Pilares


Who’s your favorite sports team?

The Dallas Cowboys


What is your favorite quote?

“It’s infinitely better to fail with courage than to sit idle with fear, because only one of these gives you the slightest chance to live abundantly. And if you do fail, then the worst-case scenario is that you’ll learn something from it.” – Chip Gaines


What is the last book you read and would recommend?

I’m a huge fan of upcycling, farmhouse chic and Fixer Upper so I just finished Chip Gaines’ book – Capital Gaines: Smart Things I’ve Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. It is amazing and so empowering. I finished the whole book in 3 hours!