IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. (Molly Grantham and Kelcey McClung/WBTV) - It's not a typical camp. The point, Leigh Ann Darty says, is to teach children to grieve.
Darty is also quick to point out that she's giving this life lesson on grieving at a joyful, free, weeklong, fun summer camp called, "Camp Rainbow," which is hosted through Hospice and Palliative Care of Iredell County.
Camp Rainbow has all the components of a typical summer camp including arts and crafts, rock climbing and horseback riding. Those activities are then transformed into therapeutic fun.
"All these children have a story," Darty said. "I want them to know it's okay to talk about their story and help them honor their sibling, closer friend or parent, and also move on in their lives."
Nearly 41 of the 60 young campers at this year's camp had experienced death in their own immediate families. Darty said many ended up making friends with each other and connecting on a deeper level than most young children do because they realized they weren't suffering alone.
"Their backgrounds are diverse," Darty said. "But they are connected through a shared experience."
The camp began in 2005. Since then, the camp has quadrupled in size, but is still free thanks to donations, gr ants and fundraisers.
When Camp Rainbow isn't in session in June, Darty teaches similar lessons in the Iredell County school district and has helped over 440 students, both children and teens.
"Some people ask me how I do this work," she said. "I ask, 'How do I not do it?'"