Eluna is breaking down the stigma of grief in children
The organization is based in Philadelphia and 10% of the children they serve are Latino.
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Eluna was founded in 2000 by former Major League Baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer and child advocate Karen Phelps Moyer to support children and youth impacted by grief and family addiction. It began as a small nonprofit organization in Seattle, Washington, and has grown into an entity that helps more than 40,000 children in 50 locations across the United States and Canada.
By 2012, Eluna expanded its facilities to serve the children and youth community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the home state of Moyer, known locally for being the Phillies pitcher from 2006 to 2010.
Since Eluna has been stabilized in Philadelphia, it has served more than 6,000 youth and children in grief or with a family member in addiction.
According to Eluna's website statistics, of the 73,000 children who die in the United States each year, 83% have surviving siblings. Grieving children are at a much higher risk than their peers for depression, suicide, poverty, and substance abuse.
To provide a safe and supportive space for minors, Eluna created two camp programs where children and youth spend an entire weekend with mentors and experts to work through their grief and family addiction experiences as a group. The camps are Camp Mariposa and Camp Erin. Both programs are free to their participants and are held every two months.
As FitzGerald explained to AL DIA, Camp Mariposa is an addiction prevention and mentoring program for children and youth between the ages of 9 and 12 impacted by substance addiction in their family circle.
Over 11% of Camp Mariposa participants are Latino. While 10% of the children and youth who take part in all of Eluna's programs, mentoring, and services are Latino.
Through Camp Mariposa, participants learn different emotion management techniques to recognize that addiction is a disease and not the child's fault.
Children living in a home with addiction are also at four times the risk of developing an addiction of their own.
"You can see how safe the kids feel and the things that they share because they know they're in a safe space and they're not going to be judged. They're not going to be bullied, perhaps like they are at school, which just breaks my heart," said FitzGerald.
Camp Erin is the largest national bereavement program for children and teens between 6 to 17 grieving the death of a significant person in their lives. The program combines traditional children's camp recreational activities with emotional support and grief education.
In addition, Camp Erin offers young people a unique opportunity to increase their levels of hope, improve their self-esteem and, most importantly, learn that they are not alone and bring closure to the cycle of addiction.
"No child should have to face these struggles alone, and our unique programs bring kids together to ease their pain and provide the tools to help restore hope," Eluna's mission states.
Some of the dynamics practiced in the camps are mindfulness meditation, painting to express feelings and emotions, and mentoring by experts.
The inspiration behind Eluna
Eluna's mission and camps are inspired by the courage of the child cancer patients whom Moyer and his former wife Karen met and passed away at a young age, leaving their siblings and family members in deep grief.
One such child was Gregory Chaya, whom Moyer met in 1993 while playing for the Baltimore Orioles. While Gregory was a leukemia patient, Moyer never lost communication with him to support him through his treatments and his life-saving bone marrow transplant.
Gregory's courage inspired Moyer to create The Gregory Fund, an initiative to raise funds and awareness for early cancer detection at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The organization's annual Catch a Cure for Cancer initiative raised over $1.8 million through events and community grassroots fundraising.
Eluna also pays tribute to the life of Erin Mercalf. Through Make-A-Wish, Moyer and Karen met young Erin, who was a 15-year-old cancer patient living in Pennsylvania.
While hospitalized, Erin always showed concern for the other hospitalized children and their siblings. When she passed away in 2000, Moyer and Karen decided to pay tribute to her noble heart by creating Camp Erin and helping more children grieve the loss of their loved ones.
For more information about Eluna's programs, click here.