Marine Corps Base Quantico -- Marines are known for their involvement in their local communities and recently, four active duty Marine Corps Base Quantico Marines volunteered to participate in Camp Rainbow.
Camp Rainbow is a grief camp designed for children ages 6 to 14, where they can spend the weekend working through the loss of a loved one, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling or someone else that they were close to. They do this by sharing their experiences, participating in fun activities and getting help from their assigned big buddies.
Each child is paired with a big buddy, a trained adult, who they can confide in and with whom they can enjoy the camp’s many activities. Quantico Marines participating as big buddies in this year’s camp included Lance Cpl. Bobby Magruder, HMX, whose little buddy was John Clark, age 9; Lance Cpl. Jordan Spears, HMX, little buddy Robert Frederico, age 11; Capt. Andrew Bolla, Wounded Warriors Regiment, little buddy David Wallace, age 11 ; and Sgt. Karla Ibarra, HQMC/ARI, little buddy Paige, age 9.
Although all the Marine volunteers had different reasons for volunteering (some like kids others wanted to help their community) Ibarra’s personal experience inspired her to volunteer.
“I lost my dad at a young age, and if there is something I can say or do to make it better for someone else, I want to do that,” said Ibarra.
Spears said it didn’t take long for the big buddies and little buddies to get comfortable with each other. “We learned a lot about each other,” he said. “I saw the shyness in all of the little buddies in the green group turn into confidence. During the group activities they all wanted to share their experiences (about their loved ones) and they were excited to share.”
In addition to talking to their big buddies, the campers participate in activities that are meant to be fun and help them work through their grief. For example, the yarn toss is a game in which a little buddy or big buddy holds one end of a ball of rainbow-colored yarn and throws it to another person in a circle. That person catches it and says who passed away and how they died. The activity finishes when everyone has been tossed the yarn and talked about their loved one. The result is a beautiful, spider-web made out of rainbow-colored yarn, which is used to discuss grief. For example, Belinda Tierney, bereavement counselor and social worker for the Mary Washington Hospice, equated the many colors of the yarn to all the feelings one experiences when encountering grief. She also said the tangled yarn looks a little bit like chaos, which grief can feel like.
Bolla said that the yarn toss was his favorite activity. “At the end, not only had we shared our personal loss, but we learned about one another and could physically see through the yarn how experiences connected us.”
Other activities included a turtle hunt, daisy release into the Rappahannock River in memory of lost loved ones, canoeing and a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt especially touched Spears.
“The final location of the scavenger hunt couldn’t have been better chosen. The view was of the Rappahannock River in a quiet, shaded area, that I would consider paradise.” With the spot being so peaceful and quiet, and with their big buddies close by, the little buddies were inspired to share their stories. Spears’ little buddy talked about how he felt when his father died – so depressed he didn’t know what to do. He also said it was comforting knowing there were other people like him who have lost someone important in their lives.
“I look forward to the next Camp Rainbow and I’ll be one of the first to sign up next year and every year after that,” Spears said.