Within the past year, Granbury Independent School District has experienced several tragic losses from both students and teachers.
More recently, the loss of beloved fourth grade Acton Elementary School teacher Susan Moore affected the community greatly, as she had been an integral part of the district since she joined Granbury ISD in 2021.
As the community has continued to be affected by loss, Granbury resident and Reliant at Home Hospice Executive Director Gina Forrest has created a free event specifically to help those affected by grief.
The event, Camp Bluebird, is for kids ages six to 18, who have experienced a loss from a loved one. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, at Acton Middle School, 1300 James Road.
“My vision is to go into some of these communities and offer a family grief camp, so it’s a one-day event,” Forrest said. “I just want families and their kids who’ve experienced a loss to come out and have a fun time, but a time where they can meet other people who are grieving. It’s really an idea for all of us to come together as a community.”
The event will include arts and crafts, a bounce house, snow cones, fun games, meals and snacks, and grief sessions to allow the families to cope with other families who have been through similar situations.
Forrest explained that registration for the event will take place from 9 to 9:30 a.m., followed by breakfast.
“That first session, they’ll be with their families, and then we’ll separate them,” she said. “We’ll have the different age groups, and they’ll have their leaders. There’s a separate speaker for the adults, then they’ll have two sessions. The kids will have two sessions, but they’ll rotate through activities.”
One activity that will be impactful, Forrest said, is to have kids write on — and beat up — an old truck.
“What you do is you have the families write on the side of the truck what makes them angry, and what they’re feeling, and then they take mallets and they hit the car and beat it up,” she explained. “I went to camp in Louisiana back in June, and they did it for the first time and it was powerful. They do a weeklong camp, but by the end of the week, (the kids opened up). (You would read what they wrote and at) first it was like, ‘I’m angry, because of something,’ and then by the end of camp it’s, ‘I’m angry because I didn’t get to say goodbye. I’m angry, because I didn’t get to say, ‘I love you.’ I’m angry because I wasn’t there,’ so it’s powerful.”
A bereavement coordinator for the Reliant at Home Health Dallas/Fort Worth location will also put together take-home activities for the children and their families.
“It’s fun, it’s all intermingled, but it all focuses around grief and how you go through those stages,” Forrest said. “And I think it’s a time to where they’re not alone — especially adults.”
Instead of advertising the camp, Forrest wanted to try a different approach: allowing individuals to identify families who could really benefit from Camp Bluebird.
She called every Granbury ISD counselor and dropped off a basket of goodies, along with the event information.
“I called Kim Spencer at the high school, and she said, ‘Absolutely nobody is doing anything like this,’” Forrest said. “I told them, ‘Hey, y’all are on the frontlines, identify these families and identify these kids that could benefit,’ and I had one counselor in tears, just because it’s such a big need.”
Forrest also put together Hope Kits for the counselors that included journals, fidget toys, pencils, and pens.
“I went to Operation School Supplies because I wanted to see what kind of response I would get,” she explained. “So, I had these comment cards if you wanted to know more and 33 families signed the card, which represented 58 kids. And I thought, ‘Yeah, there’s a need.’ But just that response was encouraging to me because I don’t have any expectations. I don’t know who’s going to sign up. If I get 10 kids, if I get 50 kids, I’m doing what I’m set out to do — to identify people that need help.”
She also explained the significance of the name, Camp Bluebird, as a blue bird represents happiness and excellence — which also coincides with the blue bird symbol of Reliant at Home Hospice.
Although this is the first event of its kind, Forrest said that with Granbury’s overwhelming response, she also hopes to create more Camp Bluebird events in Teague and San Antonio.
“I’ve had local businesses send checks, which has been helpful, and The Grove (Wood Fired Pizza), they’re going to produce the lunch for us.” she said. “It’s our community, we’ve got to be there to help one another.”
She added that she hates to say that there’s such a need for grief support in Granbury — but there is.
“It’s not the best thing to talk about, but it has to be, and they have to have somewhere that they can express themselves where it’s safe,” Forrest added. “Grief is different for everybody. There’s no right or wrong (way to grieve).”
The deadline to RSVP for Camp Bluebird is Monday, Sept. 18.