A new chapter to a life-altering book

by Charlotte Sanders, Girl Scout and former Chameleon’s Journey camper

Charlotte Sanders_CJ book2

Charlotte Sanders with her amazing book

I remember being very reluctant to attend Chameleon’s Journey grief camp. It was going to be the first weekend I would spend away from my mom since my brother’s passing and in order to convince me to go, I made her promise to do something fun while I was gone. My mom promised (which I am now so thankful she did!) and that was how I experienced my first overnight stay at camp.

From that weekend on, Chameleon’s Journey, a.k.a Camp Chameleon, became a safe haven for me. I found myself counting down the weeks until I could go back and taste that sweet 28-hour period of healing again. Not only was it the incredibly caring people at Chameleon’s Journey that made it so wonderful, but the knowledge that everyone around me had experienced, in some way, what I had also experienced. And that was something school, friends, and teachers could not give me. I ended up attending Chameleon’s Journey for nine years and would attend it for another nine if I could.

But, let me take a step back and explain what Chameleon’s Journey has to do with me now, considering I aged out of the program two years ago. You see, I have been a Girl Scout for eleven years. That’s eleven years of Girl Scout cookie sales, service projects, construction paper crafts, bridging ceremonies, and food drives. Now, after all this time, I am finally an Ambassador, the highest-ranking position within Girl Scouts, and eight months ago, I began my Gold Award. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the female equivalent of the Boy Scout Eagle Scout Award. The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to find a problem within the community, and craft an 80-hour service project around that dilemma. This project must not only alleviate an issue, but it must also be sustainable beyond that particular Girl Scout’s involvement. When I started thinking about what I wanted to do for my project I knew the problem I wanted to address was childhood grief.

Losing both my dad and younger brother had given me an insight into a world I felt needed some serious attention. Grief is an incredibly adult emotion and can be the most confusing thing for a child who has just lost their loved one. When I delved deeper into the idea, I decided that I wanted to give back to Chameleon’s Journey and do something that would help them.

At the beginning of each camp weekend, Chameleon’s Journey puts on a play about a chameleon who has just lost his best friend and begins to uncontrollably change colors and feel all these different, sudden emotions such as anger, sadness, jealousy, happiness, and fear. Chameleon goes on this long journey in search for Wise Old Owl, who ends up explaining to Chameleon that the emotions he’s feeling are part of the grief journey.

This story, I felt, was a perfect way to simplify a confusing message to the ears of a nine year old. So, with the permission of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, I turned Chameleon’s Journey, the play, into an 18-page, illustrated, children’s book. Chameleon’s Journey, the book, includes 13 pictures, family and counselor discussion questions, and a memory page. My goal was to hand out these books to the campers at Chameleon’s Journey, so that they could take the story home, share it with their family, and use it as a tool to guide personal conversation. But I had no idea how big this book would get.

Since October 18th, when the books were first handed out to the Chameleon’s Journey campers, thousands of people have heard about my project and over 300 of my books have been distributed to families in North Carolina and outside of North Carolina. I’ve even had requests to send them to counseling centers in England! I have received so many touching e-mails from people who I don’t even know asking for books to share with their, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc.

So, as I work, embarking on the 100th hour of this project, I can only reminisce back to the frightened girl who almost said “no” to going to what ended up being one of my most favorite places on earth. Through Camp Chameleon and my grief, I have been able to affect the lives of an innumerable amount people. I can’t bring my brother back, and I can’t bring my dad back, but I sit here and smile about all the people I have been able to touch through their memory. Experiencing loss wasn’t the end of my story, but in fact, a new chapter to a completely different, life-altering book.

Explore posts in the same categories: awareness, Chameleon's Journey, grief, Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, Kids Path

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