After the tragedy in Uvalde, I had members and lodges asking me, “What are we going to do for Uvalde?” I wanted to do my research to make sure that our members’ investment was going to something meaningful and impactful. I also knew at that time that I wanted to reimagine how our Grief Camp was running. We had a wonderful relationship with the Children’s Bereavement Center, but it was time for a change.
I found the Bluebonnet Advocacy Center on Facebook and started following what they were providing in the Uvalde area after the tragic shooting. I sent an email to their executive director to set up a phone call to see what they needed in ways of donations. After some back and forth, I was contacted by their new Executive Director Edward Gentry.
We discussed the grief counseling the center was providing to the children of Uvalde and their families, and the needs of the organization to continue to provide support. That is when I floated the idea of having these children and counselors attend our Camp. He was excited about the opportunity but wanted to speak to his staff to get their feedback. Within a week, I received another call from Edward requesting a tour and a meeting with him, his staff, Executive Camp Director Ian Brassett and myself. I happily agreed and after that meeting, we agreed to try it out! They were ready to go back and see how many families would be interested.
After weeks of working and planning, Hermann Sons Life Camp hosted 13 campers and a grief counselor during spring break in March. For the safety of the children and due to the ongoing exploitation by the press, we did not advertise anything about this special camp session and photos were not allowed.
I was able to attend one day to see for myself how impactful this was for these kids. The smiles on their faces were enough for my heart to know that we were doing something special. I asked a few people what their first-hand experience was.
Mike Hayes, EMT on duty during the grief session said, “It was an honor to be there and serve these amazing and resilient kids. Since the tragic day last year, Texans from all over were quick to support the Uvalde community. I was blessed to see this firsthand, but more importantly I witnessed not just an acute response that ended in a few days, weeks or months. Thankfully, the heart and passion of Texans serving the Uvalde community remains strong today.
The Hermann Sons Life organization and staff did much more than provide a week of fun and fellowship for these kids and families. This week was filled with smiles and laughs that many of these kids hadn’t experienced in quite some time. The support and care surrounding them by HSL staff was immeasurable. I was truly honored to serve these kids and their families and to have a small part in sharing a smile or laugh with them. Truth be told, these kids brought a significant amount of joy to my heart in interacting with them at camp this week. Thank you and Ian for the opportunity!”
Edward wrote, “It’s difficult to put into words what a difference, an impact, that the generosity of Hermann Sons Life did by offering the camping experience to the children we work with. Your organization should take pride in acting as a server. You saw and met the practical needs of the children, allowed them to be free and accomplish their goals, while investing the time and energy of your organization to ensure the children’s success. The definition of compassion is ‘investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurt of others’ and for the Bluebonnet Children’s Center, on behalf of the children we work with, Hermann Sons Life is a true model of compassion. We can’t thank you and your team enough for this amazing opportunity.”
Jennifer Haby, counselor for BCAC said, “First, a huge thank you to everyone who was involved in the camp for our clients from Bluebonnet CAC. I am a therapist from Bluebonnet and was able to attend with our clients this week. I wanted to say that everyone at Hermann Sons Life gave the kids a place to feel free enough to laugh loud, smile big and create new friendships, and it was wonderful to be a part of it. Thank you all so very much!!”
Hermann Sons Life looks forward to assisting the children of Uvalde in the future. If you or your lodge would like to donate to the Grief Camp, please contact call 210-226-9261, ext. 238, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can also be made online, click here. Or you can mail a check to Hermann Sons Life, P.O. Box 1941, San Antonio, TX. 78297, Attn: Grief Camp.