Charlotte, N.C., October 17, 2023 - On Saturday morning, October 14, campers and staff gathered on the banks of beautiful Lake Wylie at Camp Thunderbird to take part in the 24th annual Chameleon’s Journey Grief Camp, a program of VIA Health Partners, formerly known as Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region.
Launched in 2000, Chameleon’s Journey exists to provide healing, comfort, and care for children and students ages 7 to 17 in a therapeutic environment following a death, either through hospice or as a community referral. The program is one of just three overnight grief camps located in the Southeast and is staffed by clinical personnel including medical social workers, licensed professional counselors, healthcare chaplains, death doulas, music therapists, and community volunteers.
Since its inception, the cost to attend camp has been generously covered by donors throughout the region, VIA Health Partners and community foundations including Giving with Grace, the Checkers Foundation, and Claire Bear’s Fund.
While campers rotate through a series of activities and therapeutic interventions including drumming, group work, and movement/breathing techniques like Tai Chi, they are also invited to take part in a service project with the intent of giving back amid their own personal loss. With this year’s theme of “Grief Around the World,” campers partnered with Meals of Hope, centered in Southwest Florida, to fight the hunger epidemic and address food inequity in our own backyard, both through education and a justice-centered activity.
According to public health research, about 15% of households in Mecklenburg County struggle with food insecurity, driven mostly by poverty and an increased cost of living. It is also estimated that 1 in 5 children in Mecklenburg County lives in poverty. On October 16, a day known as World Food Day as established by member countries of the United Nations, Chameleon’s Journey delivered over 1,400 pounds of food packed by campers, or 10,000 meals, to Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina to be distributed within a 22-county service area - a geographic region that is a part of the 32 counties served by VIA Health Partners for hospice and palliative care.
Campers are challenged to experience service as a way of honoring their loved ones, recognizing power in their ability to respond while telling the stories of legacy, grace and love that have made them who they are today because of the ways they have been seen and valued. In the act of giving, they are growing both as mourners and as human beings desiring to speak hope into a hurting world.
About VIA Health Partners
VIA Health Partners began as Hospice at Charlotte, the state’s first hospice, in 1978 and then operated under the name Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region (HPCCR) for decades before its name change to VIA Health Partners in 2023. Today VIA Health Partners serves 3,500 patients each day for hospice and palliative care services. Our service area encompasses 14 counties in North Carolina--Burke, Catawba, Cabarrus, Caldwell, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Polk, Rutherford, Stanly, and Union. Its service area in South Carolina includes Abbeville, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Saluda, Spartanburg, Union, and York counties.