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Interview with Moyer Foundation and Camp Erin founders Karen and Jamie Moyer

One Last Hug: Three Days at Grief Camp

HBO

What led to the launch of the Moyer Foundation?

Karen Moyer

We started a foundation because we wanted to make an immediate impact on children who were in any type of distress. Along the way we educated ourselves on children and all kinds of distress, and we became experts on grief and addiction.

Jamie Moyer

As a baseball player, Karen and I were always involved with giving back to the community. We just felt that we werent doing enough, so we created our own foundation to build on top of what weve always done with my employers. We just felt like we could do more and make a bigger impact. As we grew, we were involved with a grief camp in South Bend, Indiana, and we really saw the value of that.

HBO

How did Camp Erin begin?

Karen Moyer

The Erin story happens because we meet a girl through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, because Jamie is a professional athlete, and we decide to think about her sisters because we know shes not going to make it. Were able to create this camp to help people like Erins sisters and others who grieve a loss.

Jamie Moyer

We asked Erins family to use her name on the camp. Then we started the camp, and we saw the value of the camp -- how it can help children who are grieving a loss.

Karen Moyer

We expanded on that and took it through the United States through a map of all Major League Baseball cities and more. Now its keeping those camps going, reacting to a need -- like being able to open a camp in Newtown, Connecticut. Or being able to go down to Oklahoma, where there are a lot of natural disasters, or to a desolate, middle-of-the-country state like Nebraska or New Orleans, wherever theres need. More than 1.5 million kids are grieving a loss, so theres a lot of work to be done.

Jamie Moyer

Weve come to realize a lot of things through this camp. But we realized that sometimes children dont have a voice. Were trying to educate society on this matter, as well as reaching out to kids who need these services. As weve gotten involved, weve come to realize there are more than 1.5 million kids in our country from the ages of 6 t 17 that are dealing with a loss. Our goal here has been to create camps. We came up with the idea of putting one in every Major League Baseball city, which is kind of our niche with me being a baseball player.

HBO

How did the documentary come together?

Karen Moyer

We didnt do this documentary, and I think thats what makes this pretty incredible. I actually fought the documentary because I want to protect these kids and I didnt want to exploit them at all. The film has no Hollywood ending. The story goes that there was a producer in LA who actually had a personal story of losing his dad when he was younger. He wanted to do something on childrens bereavement, and here we have this documentary. It offers so much. We can use it to educate our counselors across the country, we can take it to donors. This is a free camp, its important for us to continually serve the kids we do and to serve more. It can be obviously used in a situation where we just need to open up the conversation, where we can give it a voice.

"Were helping people live on and live well. This camp is a great tool to support that." - Karen Moyer

Jamie Moyer

We felt like this could be some good exposure for the camp and a great way to educate people at the same time, while still helping kids. Ultimately, thats our goal -- to help kids.

HBO

Did you have any reservations about letting cameras into Camp Erin?

Karen Moyer

For sure, because youre following them for the three days of camp, and then they went back to them after six months. But theres a lot of ways to slice this. They have hours of tape and lots of stories from kids, but I think whats important is to just recognize that each and every story is very real.

Jamie Moyer

First of all, you have to get permission from the children and their families. What were doing is were taking these kids unfortunate situations and showing the public that there are kids out there that could use their help.

HBO

Do you think many people know about childhood grief?

Karen Moyer

Honestly, any time when theres loss, people say the wrong thing, they dont know what kind of friend to be. Theres lot of lessons that can be learned here and tools that can help you in the next situation because its inevitable. Death is very real. Adults typically suppress their feelings about death because thats what earlier generations did. Our generation, this next generation, has to be different. Were helping people live on and live well. This camp is a great tool to support that.

Jamie Moyer

Childhood grief is overlooked sometimes and not by choice -- you just dont think about it. Adults have the ability to seek out help, but imagine being 9 years old and losing someone very close to you in your life. Where do you go? Who do you go to? I hope that people start to understand what childhood grief is about. I dont expect them to completely understand it, but hopefully theyve got a little bit of education from this. I would also help that if they would know of anyone who could use the Moyer Foundation or Camp Erin that they would connect them with us.

HBO

Anything you want to add?

Karen Moyer

Certainly, as the founder of the Moyer Foundation, Im always knocking on doors for funding. I think its very important for people to know that its a free camp, and it costs $500 to send a kid to camp, and we cant do it without time, talent, and a treasurer. Were always looking for donations [link: http://www.moyerfoundation.org/Donate/Default.aspx]. We plan to sustain this for a very, very long time and continue to open camps in communities all over the country.

One Last Hug: Three Days at Grief Camp