At Camp Kangaroo, kids process grief through arts and activities

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Summertime means summer camps for thousands of children in the Chicago area.

But for those struggling with the loss of someone special, it can be hard to communicate and have fun.

That's where Camp Kangaroo comes in. The traveling camp set up shop in Naperville this weekend with three days of free activities for children trying to process grief.

"Camp Kangaroo is a therapeutic arts camp for children who’ve lost someone," said Maureen Zito of Camp Kangaroo. "It can be anyone in their life that meant something to them."

DuJuan Hester, 9, lost his 14-year-old brother to gun violence on Oct. 29, 2016. Demarco Webster, Jr., 14, was killed in a drive-by shooting while helping his dad move in South Austin.

"He jumped off the van and tried to run in the building," DuJuan said, "but he got hit."

The goal at Camp Kangaroo, staffers said, is to connect kids with others who've suffered similar losses and provide each child with tools to cope.

"They come to camp … and they’re in a group with other kids who’ve lost somebody," Zito said. "It’s a common language and a common bond. You see them flourish, you see them come into themselves, come alive, and put words to the stuff that they’re going through."

"They’re able to process through the stages of grief and understand that they’re not alone," said Jason Banks, executive director of Seasons Hospice Foundation, which operates Camp Kangaroo in cities across the country.

For more information, visit the foundation's website at seasonsfoundation.org/camp-kangaroo.