In 2001, the nine-year-old only daughter in a family torn asunder by death felt isolated among her contemporaries by grief over her father’s recent passing. That summer, Brianna Ortiz and her mother discovered Hospice of the North Coast’s annual “Healing Outdoor Play Experience” known as Camp H.O.P.E.
“Camp H.O.P.E. was wonderful for me,” recalls Brianna, today a college senior majoring in Sociology and intending to enter a profession in which she can help people as she was supported during a difficult juncture in her life. “I connected instantly with other kids in the same situation. We understood what each of us was going through,” Brianna recalls, saying she attended the event for the next two years.
Years later, Brianna ran into another former camper. She says, “It was like no time had passed. We renewed our bond immediately. That’s how strong our connections were.”
In Summer 2012, Brianna returned to Camp H.O.P.E.; now as a volunteer. She relates, “Working with children around the age of nine, I realized how very young I was; how much I had to deal with. My experience enabled me to connect with the kids and help them connect with each other. At first, they were hesitant. By the end of the day, I watched them with their new friends exchanging phone numbers and pledging to keep in touch, just as I did.”
Seeing a glimpse of sun through a cloud of despair; helping bereaved children bond and support each other on their journey toward a new normal; Brianna learned in 2012 as she did in 2001: H.O.P.E. connects.