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Great Falls Twins Find Healthy Ways to Grieve at Camp Francis

When twins Meredith and Anthony Semenza were just 10 years old, they lost their father, Trevor, in a car accident. Learning to grieve after such a tragic loss is difficult at any age, but the Semenza family found a resource that has helped make the most difficult time in their lives a little less painful: the Benefis Peace Hospice Children’s Bereavement Program and Camp Francis.

Camp Francis serves as a sanctuary for children like Meredith and Anthony. It’s a safe place for kids to share their feelings about losing their loved one and to learn to let go of their sadness. For the past two years, Anthony and Meredith attended Camp Francis in early June, where they opened up about the loss of their father and learned how to grieve.

“I didn’t realize other people were also going through grief like mine,” Meredith explained. “It was nice to know that we are not alone.”

Meredith and Anthony loved their time at Camp Francis and all of the fun activities, from drumming, hiking, and water fights, to special ceremonies and sitting around the campfire sharing memories.

“I liked going into the tipi at Camp Francis to relax,” said Anthony. “I learned that there are more ways to get out my anger than through violence.”

“The staff and volunteers at Camp Francis were incredible. They knew exactly what to say and how and when to say it.”

–Angie Semenza

Their mother, Angie, noticed a real difference in both her children. “Anthony was calm. He found a way to release his energy and work through his aggression,” said Angie. “Before Camp, Meredith held in her grief for a long time. She was trying to take care of me and Anthony. But, she learned to acknowledge her loss and start the grieving process.”

Even though both Meredith and Anthony were nervous and anxious about leaving their mother for four-nights, by the last day of camp, they didn’t want to leave. “Everyone is so nice and understanding,” said Meredith. “They’re really like a family.” Angie marveled at how enthusiastic and happy they were: “they chattered about camp the whole drive home.”

When asked if they would recommend Camp Francis to other kids, Anthony said, “Go! You’ll make friends and get help learning how to grieve.”

Camp Francis is a completely free service for families in Northcentral Montana. You can support the magic that happens at Camp Francis with a donation to the Benefis Foundation. With your help, children will continue to get the help they need and will have the joy in their lives reignited.