Camp Courage: Healing the hearts of children for 10-years - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Camp Courage: Healing the hearts of children for 10-years

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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (KTIV) -

Mattie Carstens thinks about her dad, Ken, a lot.

“Every day,” she’s quick to say.

A truck driver, she didn't see him as often as she wanted.

"My favorite memories of all time are when we went on the truck together during the summer. We would travel half way across the country to Washington. He never had time to read, so he'd always buy a book and make me read out loud to him,” recalled Carstens.

He died in September 2011, after a seven-month battle with leukemia.

"When I first lost my father I felt like I had to be like him. Be funny, and upbeat, and ok with everything, and then after a couple months it finally hit me that he's not coming back,” Carstens explained while getting teary-eyed.

Among the cabins and cottonwood trees of Camp Goodwill in South Sioux City, Nebraska, Mattie got through her grief.

"I realized that it's ok to cry and to talk about it,” she pointed out.

“Kids grieve differently than adults,” explained Val Owens, the volunteer coordinator for Hospice of Siouxland, which runs the camp.

At Camp Courage kids six to 17 spend the weekend processing the pain of losing a loved one.

"Even though we're working on grief quite a bit, during the 24-35 hours they’re here. We're also swimming in the swimming pool, we're having meal time, and game time, all of those things that are also part of being a kid,” added Owens.

One of Mattie's favorite activities was equine therapy.

“You have to be calm around horses, so knowing that really helped me to understand that I need to just relax and enjoy, she said.

At camp courage, Mattie also found friendship.

"Actually, I've made some of my best friends here,” she added.

Including one girl who'd lost her grandmother.

“It was kind of amazing to me to realize that not only had this person gone through a loss like I had, it was incredible to me to know that she had felt the same way I had,” pointed out Mattie.

At 18, Mattie is to old to be a camper, so she's coming back as a volunteer:

"I'm hoping to teach them that it's ok to talk about it. That it's ok to be open with your family and your friends,” she answered.

The pain may never completely go away, but neither will the memories.  Being at the camp, she says, gives her courage to focus on the happy times.

Camp Courage, put on by Hospice of Siouxland, will run June 13th through 14th at Camp Goodwill.  Sign up runs through the end of May.  Click here to learn more or register.

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