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Coping With COVID Loss: Camp Good Mourning! On Long Island Offers Children Chance To Get Needed Support

CENTER MORICHES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The pandemic has taken a toll on children, especially those who have experienced grief.

A recent report revealed an estimated 167,000 children in the U.S. lost a caretaker due to COVID-19. But as CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis found, there's a place on Long Island these children can go to get support.

She recently sat down with a family to learn more about the impact.

"Ever since my grandpa passed away it's been kind of tough on all of us," said camper Kennedy Young of North Bellmore.

It was a day forever burned in Young's mind.

"It was 2020, Nov. 30," she said.

And it was COVID that ripped away her grandfather, Gilberto Atkinson, leaving the 10-year-old with memories.

"He was a very great grandpa," Young said.


She said he filled the North Bellmore home they shared with his love of his faith and family.

"Being a single mom, my dad wasn't just a dad. My dad was a co-parent. So when we lost him and his presence in this house, it was a lot and Kennedy is the youngest," said Gillian Atkinson-Young, Kennedy's mother. "I knew she was struggling, but because of my pain, my suffering, I really wasn't able to pour into her and her struggles."

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Young's school suggested Camp Good Mourning!, which provides free bereavement camp programs to Long Island children coping with the loss of a loved one.

"It's really to give those kids an experience who have lost a parent or a sibling an opportunity to meet other kids who are going through the same thing," executive director Paul Rubin said.

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DeAngelis met executive director Rubin at Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck in Center Moriches, where the overnight, weekend programs are held. He explained that through grief groups and different outlets -- talking, music, journaling, animal therapy -- kids learn ways to explore their feelings and cope, together.

"Once they know that there are other children like them, then all of the sudden the lightbulb goes off," Rubin said.

The nonprofit launched in 2020 with virtual programs -- due to the pandemic -- which also amplified the need.

"The last two years for myself as a grown woman has been challenging. I can't even imagine what it has been like for our kids," Atkinson-Young said.

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But the family says Camp Good Mourning! made all the difference, and that confident grandpa would agree.

"I think he would be very proud of her for having the courage to talk about how she's feeling. But I think he would be so grateful to have some place that could help her manage after him not being here," Atkinson-Young said.

"He's still here in our hearts," Kennedy Young added.


Camp Good Mourning! is holding its next session in June for about 50 kids who will get to spend a weekend together knowing they're not alone.

Rubin said the camp is held in the spring and fall because grieving is not limited to the summer months, but it relies on donations and fundraisers. The next event is this weekend.

For more information on the camp, please click here.

To donate, please click here.

Also, there is a charity event this weekend: Camp Good Mourning's 2nd annual Team Chicken Wing Eating Challenge. It will be held on Sunday at Levittown Hall, doors open at noon. For more information, please click here.

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