#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Help Kids Find Joy After the Loss of a Loved One with Sara Deren

Building Resilience Through Shared Experiences

Sara Deren is the founder and CEO of Experience Camps, a leading nonprofit organization that provides grieving children experiences that change their lives forever. Her work helps kids reclaim their childhood by injecting joy and normalcy into their lives. Tune in to learn why Sara believes that a week of camp can transform the lives of kids in crisis.

Sara Deren portrait

“Incredible things can happen in the space of camp.”

—Sara Deren

Experience Camps

41. How to Help Kids Find Joy After the Loss of a Loved One with Sara Deren

Key Takeaways

  • Everyone grieves differently.
  • Resilience can be fostered when grief is processed safely and appropriately.
  • Injecting joy into the life of a grieving child restores their childhood.

Social Links


Sara Deren is the founder and CEO of Experience Camps, a leading organization for childhood grief. The national non-profit, headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, gives grieving children experiences that change their lives forever.

In 2020, she received an award for “Best Entrepreneur” from Connecticut Entrepreneur Awards and was named a “Patriots Difference Maker” by The Kraft Family and Patriots Foundation. Sara’s leadership mission: “I believe that the power of human connection makes the world a better place. I want to continue to develop and execute strategic and tactical ways to weave threads of shared experiences together while empowering others to do the same.” Sara received her MBA from Columbia University and blends her business background with her passion for the mission to lead the organization.

“Grieving children need to feel supported to live their best lives.”

—Sara Deren

Experience Camps

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group, an award-winning national facility service company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.

Welcome to the BeBetter podcast! Each week, I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learned as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to Be Better?

Michael Kurland (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Be Better podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Sara Deren, founder and CEO of Experience Camps. Sara, welcome to the show. Please tell the audience a little bit more about yourself and what you do.

Sara Deren (00:21):

Hi, Michael. Thanks so much for having me on the show today. I am Sara Deren. I’m the founder and CEO of Experience Camps. Experience Camps is a nonprofit organization that runs one-week camps and year-round support for children who have had a parent or sibling that has died. We create transformative experiences for kids in order to support them through what is arguably probably the hardest thing they’ll ever go through, and the consequences of all the things that come after that as well after the death loss. We’re there for camp. We’re there for their year-round support. We’re there to really help society better understand how to support grieving children so that when they’re not at camp, that they continue to get that kind of support that they need and to normalize their grief process.

Michael Kurland (01:11):

That’s great. It’s something that, honestly, I never even thought about until we met pre-show. I think what you’re doing is amazing, and thank you for doing it. I can tell you that my dad just passed away. I’m 42, and I haven’t even begun to unpack that properly. I’ve got a little bit better coping skills than a young child. I think what you’re doing is very needed in society. Let’s dive right into that. Let’s talk a little bit more about that. Tell the audience your story because you have a little bit of a unique story of where you came from before you started Experience Camps. Let’s get the background and we’ll go from there.

Sara Deren (01:52):

It is, and I’m sorry about your father. I didn’t know that.

Michael Kurland (01:55):

Thank you.

Sara Deren (01:55):

I’ll get to my story in a minute, but that’s in large part what we do is we’re giving space and permission to say that kind of thing, which a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to share their stories. I just appreciate you leading with that.

My story is a bit of a unique one in the non-profit space and perhaps in the grief space. I was a computer science major in college. I was really into technology, analytics, and business processes and found myself in a pretty corporate career, which I enjoyed very much. I ended up going to business school where I was studying to be better at what I was doing at that point in the financial services field in technology and project management. At business school, I met my husband along with getting an incredible degree. My husband was and is a camp owner and director. I found my trajectory slightly altered through our dating and then later getting married where I married into the camp world. I did not come from the camp world but, all of a sudden, I found myself in this place with an opportunity to do something pretty spectacular in the world. I had learned through my exposure to camp, which I had never gone to summer camp as a kid, it wasn’t something I knew as part of my life. Through dating him and marrying him and being part of that camp world, I saw that there were some really incredible things that happen in the space of camp.

There’s children learning to be their best selves away from their parents, being able to explore themselves and gain confidence and self-esteem, learning how to collaborate and work with other people, and all these amazing life skills. What I also realized through that experience was that it was mostly for kids who frankly could afford to go, and there were all these other kids out in the world that would really benefit from this experience that maybe weren’t getting to go to camp. He and I put our heads together and decided through a lot of events that took place before that, including me losing my job in 2008 from the financial industry, and all of a sudden, we have an opportunity here to do something different. Maybe that something different can be using camp as a platform to give back and to make the world a better place in a new way for kids who otherwise wouldn’t get to go to camp.

Michael Kurland (04:24):

I want to pause you right there for a second because I think that’s important to touch on you. Most of the people that come on the show, they have a story. There’s usually a tipping point in their story where they say, “I hated what I was doing” or “I was a slave to my job, and I wasn’t enjoying things,” and then that’s when they made this life altering change. For you, you decided to change because you lost your job in the financial crisis, and you actually liked what you were doing. I think that that makes you a little different.

Sara Deren (05:02):

Yet, I wasn’t devastated by the change. It was something that needed to happen in our lives. I had a husband, and I was expecting a baby at that point. We were starting a family. My husband lived in Maine all summer, and I lived in New York City behind a desk, so something had to change. I don’t know if we were waiting for a sign. I’m not somebody that really ascribes to that, but we got it. [Laughs] We got that sign, and it was sort of the push we needed to make that step and to make a step towards something that ultimately became the best step I ever took. It was the best journey I could have ever imagined, yet not one that I ever expected. Life happened, and I took hold of that and made it something that I’m so thankful for.

Michael Kurland (05:54):

That’s great because if you hadn’t have lost your job in 2008, we might not even be having this conversation. It’s funny how life works. So talk about then, you lost your job and decided, “We’re going to make this change anyway.” I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I thought it was important to really touch on that.

Sara Deren (06:19):

Absolutely. Originally, we had this broad mission in mind of providing camp experiences for kids who otherwise wouldn’t get to go. Around that time as we were developing, putting the paperwork together and developing the concept, there was a girl’s camp in the same region as our camp in Maine. There was a girl’s camp in the area that reached out to a number of boy’s camps and said, “We’re doing this bereavement camp, and we’re looking for a brother program. Is that something you’d be interested in?” We thought about it and said, “Yes, that definitely fits. It’s what we’re looking to do.” It wasn’t our direct loss that had happened at that time. We both had our parents and siblings at that time. I think everybody knows somebody when you hear something like that, there’s a bit of an a-ha moment. Of course, that should exist. It didn’t as far as we knew, at least not in our region and in our area.

We really rolled with it. We saw the need. We saw what could potentially be something really helpful for kids. We said, “Yeah. We’ll do that.” It really started there. We gathered together some really phenomenal volunteer counselors that first year. A lot of the alumni from our camp. We had 27 boys that were mainly the brothers of that girls’ camp. We opened in 2009 for the first year, and it was just unbelievable. I can remember vividly almost every moment of that week and the impact that every campfire and every song that was played and the dancing and the cheering and the joy. It was complete joy and yet the heaviness of it as well and how well everybody oscillated between those two- the joy and the heaviness- and how much we began to learn about what this program was going to be and what grieving children need to feel supported and to live their best lives. They have taught us every step of the way how this program has evolved.

Michael Kurland (08:25):

Let’s talk about the first year. What age range did you have at this camp?

Sara Deren (08:32):

The first year, it was boys only, grades four through seven. The first year, it was all kids who had had a parent that died. Since then, we have grown. Every year we added a grade, so the age range increased each year. We added girls in 2015 so then we became a boys and a girls program side-by-side at each location. We started adding locations. What started in Maine has now grown to Maine, California, Michigan, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. We also added the death loss type. Right after that first year, we added sibling loss, and now it’s really anybody that’s parent, sibling, or parent or sibling like. It could be a primary caregiver. It could be a cousin who lives in the house. Anybody whose death really made a significant impact on the child’s life by their absence.

Michael Kurland (09:28):

This is great work that you’re doing. I’m glad we’re getting this story out there. I can’t imagine. How old are you in fourth grade? Ten years old?

Sara Deren (09:39):


Michael Kurland (09:41):

You had 9 to 13 years old who are supposed to cope with a loss of a parent?

Sara Deren (09:43):


Michael Kurland (09:43):

I can tell you when I was 9 to 13, I just realized that my dad was an alcoholic. I remember it vividly like it was yesterday. We were in health class. I was 12 in sixth grade. The teacher said, “If your parent has more than one drink every night, they are alcoholic.” I don’t know if that’s still what people believe, if that qualifies you as an alcoholic, but, believe me, my dad was an alcoholic.

I remember looking around the classroom and thinking, “Does anyone else know that my dad is an alcoholic?” I felt so scared, and I felt so alone at that point. I carried that for probably 6, 7, 8 years until I found Al-Anon. It must have been even longer, probably 10 years until I found Al- Anon. It created a whole host of mental issues, nothing crazy other than just coping with that. My whole point of this story is if your parent passed away in that timeframe, you’re probably feeling very similar that: you’re alone, that no one understands you, how do you deal with it, and what kind of issues are you going to develop possibly from feeling those sort of ways? Maybe you can touch on that a little bit more because I’m sure you have way more information than I do.

Sara Deren (11:03):

You articulated that beautifully. When you are a kid especially and something like that happens where most kids you know that hasn’t happened to you, there’s that immediate feeling of isolation typically. A lot of kids feel very alone. A lot of kids and adults don’t have the coping skills to really understand how to talk to each other about it. That child’s peers aren’t coming up to him or her and saying, “Tell me about your dad. What happened? Are you okay? How can I help?” They don’t know the language. They don’t have the tools. A lot of times, a child especially at that age, wants to make it go away. They don’t want attention for it. They don’t want to be seen as different because of it. They already feel different, and they’re trying to really just bury that down. In some ways, that’s it in its simplest form.

You have all kinds of complexities that can be layered on top of that. There’s multiple losses. There’s financial strains that might come after loss or a death where maybe the family has to move homes, move towns. They have to have new friends all of a sudden. There’s so many things that get piled on what is already a really complicated thing, which is just the death itself. The grief itself that comes after that. The isolation is a very real thing. It looks different for every kid though. Some kids are going to feel that way, some aren’t. We hear that the majority do, but what we really understand about kids is that everyone grieves differently. Some kids are going to cry. Some kids are not going to cry. A lot of times, we as adults, put our own grief expectations on kids in a way that can be a little bit damaging because we have expectations that it should look a certain way. It looks the way it does in the movies, or it looks the way it would if we were grieving. For a child, their brains are still developing. They’re going through their own things in their own ways. By the way, also true of adults. They’re going to grieve differently than anybody else they know as well. For kids, they just don’t have that same level of understanding, or aren’t told in the right language necessarily, such as “This is normal. What you’re feeling is okay. You can feel. You can still feel happiness and that’s okay. You can laugh and not feel guilty about it.” There’s so many things that are complicated about grief when we live in a world and a society that that’s not that good about talking about it. That’s not that good at normalizing how kids are feeling, not how they should feel, but how they are feeling.

We’re trying to do a better job of that. We at Experience Camps are trying to create more of a movement around talking about grief, giving people the tools that the caregivers around grieving children, the tools to better relate to kids so that they don’t feel alone. You were right when you mentioned earlier when kids feel alone- and this is grief or anything else- when kids feel isolated and different, bad things can happen. The outcomes aren’t great in terms of unsupported grief. There’s a higher increase of academic problems. There’s a higher increase of suicide. There’s a higher increase of drug use and incarceration. The statistics look pretty grim when you look at what can happen. What we also know that can happen is incredible resilience. We can see many kids who are having incredibly successful lives, in some cases due to the loss that they’ve experienced and the way that they’ve built that resilience. It takes support, and it takes having the right factors in place. That is what we’re trying to ensure that they do through our program but also making sure that everyone knows that there are resources available for kids and those resources can be as simple as the other caring adults in their lives.

Michael Kurland (14:45):

Amazing work you’re doing. Kids, yes obviously, but even adults. My dad passed away. People sent me flowers and said, “My condolences,” and that’s normal. What are you doing when someone passes away? You don’t know what the right thing to say is. You don’t know what the right thing to do is. I think adults could even use an Experience Camp to help them learn coping, not even just coping but normalizing. I think that’s really a huge thing that you’re talking about.

We’re kind of at a fork in the road here. I want to talk more about the camps because we’ve touched on it and how it started. Where are you now? How many campers do you have you? You mentioned all the states you’re in, but how many campers do you actually have? How many programs? Let’s talk about that for a little bit and then we can move into what we wanted to talk about more also, which is the grieving children and the nonprofit, fundraising, and all that stuff. Let’s talk about the camps first.

Sara Deren (15:51):

As I mentioned, we started with those 27 kids in 2009. We’re now in five states. Five locations. Each one has a boys program and a girls program in each place. This summer, we’ll have just over 1,000 campers at all of those locations. We serve kids from 35 states and 4 countries. We are definitely starting to get some of that national reach. We really want to take down those barriers of accessibility for all of the kids, whether it’s geographic, financial. The camps are free for all the kids who attend, so that’s one huge barrier that we eliminate right away to make sure that that’s never a reason somebody can’t come to this camp. We fundraise all year. We have very generous donors who ensure that we can give camp to every single child who applies that we have space for. We’re trying to create more spaces every year. We grow each year. We’re adding new locations. We’re opening a camp outside of DC next year. We keep increasing the capacity because the capacity of grieving kids keeps increasing as well as you can imagine from this past year and even just the COVID deaths that we’ve seen. The number of grieving children that has left behind but also the other grieving children in the United States and beyond, which we know is a pretty large number.
We have 5.2 million grieving children in the United States alone. Most people are surprised to hear that it is that much of a- I don’t call it an issue- the grief itself is not an issue. The potential for issues is there when we are not supporting those 5.2 million grieving children and that’s what we’re really trying to address with what we’re doing.

Michael Kurland (17:34):

I am pretty good at math actually, but 1000 out of 5.2 million? We’re just scratching the surface on that.

Sara Deren (17:44):

We are with camp, and that one huge part of what we do and that’s certainly where we get to go the deepest with kids. We have them for a full week. We can sort of embrace them in this bubble of camp awesomeness and really kind of give them all the tools and those coping skills and let them run with that for the rest of the year. You’re right. What about the other 5.2 million grieving children that aren’t those 1,000 kids? That’s what we’re now really building into our model to ensure that we can, like I was saying before, give the rest of society the skills to be able to take what we’ve created at camp- this special bubble and this special model of letting kids understand that they are normal, giving them peers who are supportive and who understand them, putting them with adults that know what to say and do,  taking away sort of that awkwardness of grief and the stigma of grief and creating sort of this bubble around them in their everyday lives that replicates the emotional benefits that we see at camp.

We’re taking a platform of, whether it’s through media opportunities like this where we can share our message. We have a campaign called Talk About Grief where we’re really just trying to give everyone else the tools to know what to say, how to say it, what to do, who to reach out to for support so that every grieving child is supported, not just the 1,000 we have at camp. That every grieving child gets to live in a world where they can feel what they feel and feel normal about that, and feel good about that, and go on to live healthy, productive, successful lives without the barriers that are put around them through unsupported grief.

Michael Kurland (19:28):

Again, I can’t say it enough. The work you’re doing is amazing. Take me and the audience through a typical day at this camp. A real quick thing. You don’t have to give away your secrets, but what are these kids doing that you guys are immersing them in in some sort grief reduction, if you will?

Sara Deren (19:50):

I get such a big smile when I even think about it because the overall feeling, the overarching feeling, surprisingly that we get from grief camp is just this crazy amount of joy and energy and fun. It looks a lot like pretty much any traditional summer camp you’d walk into on the surface.
I’ll start with actually day one because this is always my favorite moment of camp. This year is going to be a little bit different per COVID protocols, but on a typical year, you have all the kids come together for a camp on a bus together. They arrive together. The other thing is most kids that are coming to camp for the first time, they don’t know what they’re getting into. All they know is that their parent or caregiver has put them on a bus with a bunch of strangers to go live with a bunch of strangers for a week to talk about grief. For most kids, they’ve already kind of put up the fight at the bus stop. “I don’t want to go!” Somehow, we get them on the bus and convince them this is going to be great, which it is. They find that out pretty quickly. They come out of the bus doors, and they’re met by this sea of very excited, amazing human volunteers where they are clapping and cheering. There’s dancing. They’re welcomed into this energetic embrace of excitement. You can literally see as these first-year campers are climbing down from the bus steps that they look around, and the shoulders, which are up at their ears with anxiety, slowly start to come down. You slowly start to see the smile creep up on their face. There’s this recognition in them that says, “This is going to be okay. All the things that I had thought going into this on this two-hour bus ride to camp. I think this is going to be okay.”

We just roll from there. We get going. The first thing they do is go off to their bunks. They meet their bunkmates. We introduce them. Everybody gets a name necklace. It’s kind of their signature item that they have their name in letter beads on their necklace. They get one bead for every year that they are there. You can tell who’s been here a long time and who who’s just starting out. We get right into activities. They’re doing tug of war within the first day. They’re going to the waterfront, and they’re swimming and boating. They’re playing volleyball, baseball, and basketball. It’s active. It’s so active that they sleep so well at night. [Laughs] There’s even very little homesickness for that whole week of camp. It goes really quickly because they are so busy, just rediscovering the joy of childhood. That’s a huge part of what we do, incorporating play and reincorporating play into their lives, which in many cases is something that they’ve been missing out on. If that person has died within the last few years of their childhood, there’s a really good chance that that’s kind of been the thing that had to go by the wayside. They either have new responsibilities at home, or maybe they don’t feel like playing. Maybe they feel bad about living childhood the way that they used to. There’s a lot of reasons, but childhood can really be ripped away from a kid when they are grieving or when somebody important to them has died.

All of a sudden, they come to camp and it’s a huge injection of that joy. You see it right away. At the same time, woven into that week, is this understanding. We say it also, so it’s not just sort of implied, but everyone there has been through something similar. Even that first night, we’re at a quieter moment, kind of calming down the day. We say, “Look around you. Everybody to your left and everybody to your right. Everyone here has experienced a significant death loss. They’re experiencing something, not just like you, but something where they can understand what you’re going through. That’s who your people are this week. That’s who you’re going to be surrounded by.” Even you’re doing all those fun, crazy activities and roasting s’mores after, you’re doing that with sort of this knowledge that you’re with your people. You’re with people who understand., who get it. That right there, creates a certain dynamic of belonging. You’re belonging to a club that nobody ever wanted to belong to, but here you are. There is a club for you. That just alone is so powerful for these kids to feel like they are not the only ones.

There’s other things we do throughout the week that really directly address grief and really directly address building that toolkit for their coping skills. It is a clinically informed program, so we have licensed clinicians that are assigned to every bunk. They are there to support those peer support moments, to facilitate conversations. It’s not therapy, but it’s therapeutic. We make sure that we’re creating those moments where kids can express themselves, where they can hear other kids’ stories. Where they can sort of see themselves in other kids’ versions of events and other kids’ stories in a way that’s really helpful for them, especially with things like stigmatized losses. Where you’ve had a suicide loss or a homicide. Things that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about, the person who is grieving as well as the people around them. All of a sudden for the first time ever, you’ve met somebody else who also had a person die of suicide. It’s incredible. To be able to reflect back to each other, such as “I feel angry about that. I’m really mad at that person. I feel guilty about the last thing I said.” Whatever it is. There’s somebody else who has also had that feeling. It can be so incredibly powerful for the children and for the adults, frankly.
A lot of our volunteers have also experienced their own losses. We hear from them that that similar feelings arise. A lot of them have kind of put it into a bottle from the time they were kids. By supporting the kids at camp, they’re sort of opening that up and finding this new version of themselves as well. It can be really healing all around for kids and adults alike.

Michael Kurland (25:52):

I didn’t even think of that: suicide and homicide. I lost my stepfather to suicide, and I didn’t know anything about him. I still haven’t done a lot of research. I can tell you; I was probably 38 at the time. Again, a lot to unpack there for myself. If I’m an 8, 9, or 10-year-old and that’s something that we’re talking about. It’s heavy stuff. To know that someone else in the room has got that same similar story and to be able to put their arm around them and talk to that other 8, 9, or 10-year-old. You have clinical people there to make sure that the conversations are going the right way and they’re dealing with things properly. That’s just amazing. Thank you for all that you’re doing. I mean that truly from the bottom of my heart, and I’m glad we’re getting this story out there to the audience so they can hear what great things you are doing.
Let’s talk about the great things you are doing and the nonprofit space because I know that was a big thing that you want to touch on. I think it’s important. It’s a good point in the show to start talking about that and then we can go from there.

Sara Deren (27:07):

As we were talking before the show, it really got me thinking about the ability that nonprofits have to do good in the world, to be good, to be better, to be creating these constructs and these systems to make the world a better place. I think that’s why most nonprofits exist. Yet as a society, as systems around those nonprofits, it can be so hard to accomplish those goals because of the way that people perceive of nonprofits. There’s a sense in the industry, in the business as we call it that it needs to be scrappy. A lot of people expect nonprofits to keep their budgets really low because it all needs to go to the program, which of course I support. Of course, we want to support those programs. What gets overlooked is that there needs to be investment in capacity. There needs to be investment in leadership of nonprofits. There needs to be a belief in striving for better in the way that nonprofits are run. The nonprofit leaders, I’ll say speaking on behalf of myself, it’s really challenging to balance those two sides of the equation. Knowing what it means to build a business, to build an organization, to build something that can really sustain on us in a scalable way, grow, create an even bigger impact, and yet having to do that on a shoestring budget or with the funders needs in mind in terms of where they want their dollars to go. It can be just a really complicated equation.

Michael Kurland (28:42):

We talk about C-level talent or D-level talent. How do you attract A-level talent if you are expected to pay them not a comparable salary for what their backgrounds are? I thought that was also good to touch on.

Sara Deren (29:00):

There’s a lot of sensitivity around salaries for non-profit professionals, similarly to schoolteachers and a lot of other service professions. You expect the best of these people to serve humanity and yet we don’t want to pay them the best. We allocate those types of funds to financial services or professional athletes, etc. I know not everything is equal in this way, but I do think that I’d like to see the world shift into a little bit more of an understanding of investing in the work that nonprofits are doing and building the capacity, so that they can continue to grow and scale that growth and scale that impact that they are able to make. As anybody who runs a for-profit business knows, scaling takes investment. There needs to be an investment in the infrastructure, in operations, in staff and leadership, and the development of leadership and staff. Those are some things that can be really hard to justify for nonprofits. I’m here making the case that it needs to be looked at and needs to be focused on so that we can continue doing all the good work that’s going on in the world from so many incredible non-profits.

Michael Kurland (30:11):

Agreed. We talked about some of the bad non-profits out there, not even half of your donation went to what you want it to go to. There’s also some great ones out there like yours. I’m glad we touched on that.
Sara, this has been a really, really informative and great conversation. I have just a couple more questions for you. First one is: If the audience would like to make a donation to your nonprofit, how do they do so?

Sara Deren (30:42):

How nice of you to ask. Thank you. You can find our website at experiencecamps.org, and there’s a lot of information there on (a) how to make a donation, (b) how to volunteer. We didn’t really go too much into that, but our programs are fueled by the most amazing volunteers. We’re always looking for good people to continue with us in growing our programs. You can learn more about childhood grief, the issue of childhood grief, the impacts, how to talk about grief. We have a lot of good resources on there for anybody who is trying to support a grieving child, trying to support a grieving adult even, and just looking to learn more to get involved.

Michael Kurland (31:20):

Great. Thank you for that. We did not get into the volunteer aspects. We got a little bit more time here. Let’s talk a bit about that. What do we need to know about volunteering and how does that work?

Sara Deren (31:32):

The volunteers, first of all, are some of the greatest. Collectively, there’s 500 of them. I can tell you every one of them is the most amazing person you’ll ever meet. Camps like ours tend to attract really amazing people. Not too many people who are not kind are going to give up a week of their jobs and family to come to camp. We have these incredible humans who take a week and come be either camp counselors, we have clinicians, nurses; all fields are really needed to make the camp week run, but really the heart of it is these camp counselors, they come into a week. They have a one-day orientation, and we roll into the week of camp. They are making the magic. They are bringing the energy. They’re the ones dancing at the bus when it pulls in, clapping it up, putting their arm around a kid, being there for as many of the loud and crazy moments of fun as they are for the quiet and reflective moments of sharing. They’re there for all of it. They’re there to be the one cheering on, as I mentioned before, tug of war, You’ll find often, if you make space for it, a walk down the camp path can often lead to a conversation that starts with, “Hey, my dad died.” It starts as simply as that because those kids know, as soon as they get there, that everyone there is there for them. They’re there to make space for their grief, for their feelings, whatever those are, whether they are joy, whether they are sadness. The volunteers are the ones to receive that to create the energy, to create the moments, but then receive whatever the kids are bringing in, whatever way that they’re showing up. They are just phenomenal. Many of our volunteers return every year. They come for that week. They get involved year-round. They’re the ones showing up at our events and cheering the loudest there as well. They’re really special people, and we’re always looking for more special people to join the ranks.

Michael Kurland (33:35):

Wow. I’m getting a little teary-eyed.

Sara Deren (33:40):

Michael, I haven’t gotten your application yet. I know one’s coming.

Michael Kurland (33:43):

I just had the Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO on from Orange County, and I’m in the application process for them, so why not? I’ll take a look at it and see. If someone does want to become a volunteer, how do they do so?

Sara Deren (33:59):

Same place at experiencecamps.org. Click on that volunteer button, and there’s a lot of information about what the week looks like, what you need to know, what you need to do. There’s an application right on our website. It takes a couple minutes to fill out and then we go from there.

Michael Kurland (34:14):

Wow. That’s great. I’m going to go to experiencecamps.org, as soon as we finish this call. Sara, how can the audience get ahold of you if they would like to reach out to you directly?

Sara Deren (34:25):

I would love that. Nobody ever asks me that. Same website address at experiencecamps.org. It’s sara@experiencecamps.org. You can reach me directly. I would love to hear from anybody who is listening who wants to find out more, who has ideas, has a person they want me to meet, anything. I love hearing from anybody. I’m looking forward to expanding our network, increasing our reach, increasing the awareness around childhood grief and Experience Camps. I welcome any and all introductions.

Michael Kurland (35:00):

That’s great, Sara. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Audience, until next time.

Thank you for tuning in! I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There is no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform.

To learn more Branded Group’s “Be Better” experience and how we provide national facilities maintenance, visit us at www.branded-group.com. Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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