Creating a ripple effect
Artist/photographer, Rosholt camp work to assist families of loss
By Kris Leonhardt
CENTRAL WISCONSIN – Carmen Duran is not your typical artist/photographer. She is using her talents to dip into her innermost feelings of love and loss and share her abilities to help create a ripple effect in central Wisconsin.
Duran is an applications analyst with Marshfield Clinic Health System and a volunteer with Camp HOPE on Lions Lake in Rosholt – a camp for grieving children and their families.
Duran is no stranger to family grief; she experienced the loss of her daughter, Jessi, who died of a rare brain tumor in 1992 at the age of four.
“The following years, we spent trying to adjust to every day, and holidays, months and seasons that followed. Every year was different, and every anniversary was different from the previous. Mostly just one day at a time,” said Duran
“We are in a time now where people talk about grief more so than they did 30 years ago. And that’s one of the good things one of the great things about Camp Hope is that there’s never there’s never a bad time to talk about it. There’s no expectations about being over it.
Now, Duran celebrates her daughter’s life in a unique way.
“Jessi lived with joy every day. She would pick out the brightest, boldest colored crayons, dress in mismatched clothes, jelly shoes, and her hat. I wanted a way to donate and celebrate her life because her one little life matters. I have donated monetarily but there is something very rewarding about donating time. Today, my sons make the time to do the same and I am very happy about that,” she said.
“For me, creativity puts me in touch with a part of myself that I don’t share often with people.
“And the things that I don’t really have words for. All the artists I know say that we create something out of nothing and when that something is a beautiful expression of life, it makes sense to share it. And when it brings joy to other people, that’s just the icing on the cake.”
As a volunteer at Camp HOPE, she captures the ripple effect that the camp initiates among those families who now experience the same type of loss.
“Kids come to camp closed off and nervous, but by the end of the camp they’ve made special connections with other kids going through similar circumstances. They slowly start to smile and Carmen is able to document that transformation in such an artistic way,” says Camp HOPE Director Vicky Wittman.
Duran’s son, Alex, was five-and-a-half at the time, and Duran conveys the difference the camp can make.
“Grief is so solitary; but a place like Camp HOPE gives kids and adults a safe place to express their grief with others who understand,” Duran explained.
She recently nominated Camp HOPE as part of Security Health Plan’s Employee Driven Corporate Giving Program. Each month Security Health Plan awards a $1,000 grant to a different charity or organization that is nominated by an MCHS employee. Employees are encouraged to nominate organizations making a positive difference in the community. The Security Health Plan donation will go toward camp programming.
“Carmen shared her daughter’s story and it is such an honor that she chose Camp HOPE. I think being a part of Camp HOPE has been healing for her,” says Wittman.
“I hope campers walk away knowing it’s okay to live again and be alive again. Physically, your loved one is not with you, but they are still with you. The grief is always there, and it comes in waves, but it’s okay to live life for them and because of them,” said Duran.
“We’re all not in the same place that we were 30 years ago. I mean, the grief never ends obviously, but the new normal sort of takes over and then with it is the gifts of always appreciating every single thing. Because we know that this is all very fleeting and fragile.”
At Camp Hope, families participate in outdoor and indoor activities, such as swimming, paddling, arts, and crafts, journaling, and yoga.
Wittman says campers forge lifelong bonds and often return for “reunion camps.”
Camp HOPE has operated for over three decades and takes place again this coming May, where they will welcome their 5,000th camper.
For more information, visit www.camphopeforkids.org.
Duran currently operates a little art studio space in the Mueller professional building, in downtown Marshfield.