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Addiction Prevention & Grief Camps for Children

by Demarco Moore

September 27, 2022
Children at grief recovery camps

The Eluna Network is Supporting Children and Families

Millions of children in America live in homes with adults who use illegal drugs or experience substance use disorder (SUD), including frequent binge drinking. As a result, they’re at a greater risk for neglect, abuse and developing substance use habits themselves. Research suggests that many children living with someone who abuses drugs or alcohol will be impacted by the death of a family member or friend. 

This can create crippling grief and emotional trauma which can affect a child’s growth and development. The Eluna Network runs camps and programs aimed at helping children cope with negative emotions and stress caused by grief and substance use.

Research shows that when grief and childhood trauma go unaddressed, children and teens are at risk of experiencing short-and-long-term issues like trouble at school, mental health problems and early death. The Eluna Network’s goal is to intervene early, teach children how to grieve and heal and prevent addiction. So far, Eluna camps have been successful at not only preventing campers from using substances but also helping them avoid legal trouble. Children in the United States and Canada can spend a weekend addressing their trauma with fun activities, mentor and leadership courses, grief support and addiction prevention training.

HBO shoots a documentary at an Eluna Network camp

In 2014, HBO spent three days at an Eluna Camp documenting the grief recovery program (YouTube/HBODocs)

What is Eluna?

Created in 2000, Eluna is a national nonprofit organization that helps children in distress deal with the impact of grief or addiction in their families. It was founded by former Major League Baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, child advocate Karen Phelps Moyer. The Eluna network runs weekend camps across the United States, many of which have been hit by the ongoing opioid crisis. That includes West Virginia, which has the country’s highest number of opioid-related drug overdose deaths and the highest concentration of bereavement, with 12.4% of children being estimated to experience the loss of a parent or sibling.

Camp Mariposa

In 2007, Eluna created Camp Mariposa to help children impacted by a family member’s substance abuse. The free camp offers programs on mentoring, addiction prevention and grief support year-round to children between the ages of nine and 12. Campers gain support from their peers in similar situations. They spend the weekend participating in activities like stretching, hikes and group sports that help them learn coping skills for managing negative emotions and stress.

Camp Mariposa has 17 locations in communities across the United States. According to research, the camp is successfully breaking the cycle of addiction. A three-year study conducted by researchers at Louisiana State University found that 95% of Eluna campers have never used any substance to get high. In addition, 93% of them had no involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Camp Erin

Camp Erin has locations uniquely offered in every city with a Major League Baseball team, as well as in other communities across the United States and Canada. This Eluna Network camp is known as the largest national bereavement program for young people grieving an essential person in their lives. Similar to Camp Mariposa, Camp Erin provides free weekend camps where children and teens ages six to 17 participate in fun activities, attend grief classes and restore their self-esteem and hope.

Camp Erin has 32 locations in communities across the United States and Canada.

a young child grieving the loss of her parent from addiction

Research shows that when grief and childhood trauma go unaddressed, children and teens are at risk of experiencing short-and-long-term issues like trouble at school, mental health problems and early death.

Finding Help for Grieving Children and Teenagers

You might come across a child or teenager experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one. If their loss is related to substance abuse, it’s vital to guide them toward resources that can help them heal, continue to develop and break the cycle of addiction.

If you or a loved one is having problems with drugs or alcohol, call Landmark Recovery at 888-448-0302 to speak to a recovery specialist. A staff member will answer questions related to grief, substance use disorder and the admissions process. Please visit our locations page to find an addiction treatment center in your area.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.