Hundreds of walkers and runners will get in the zone Saturday to benefit the nation's largest bereavement camp for children.
Comfort Zone Camp will host its third annual fundraising 5K walk/run at Brookdale Park this weekend to help support grieving campers from across the nation. The nonprofit organization, which has sites in California, Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, provides free weekend camp for children ages 7-17 who have lost a parent, sibling or caregiver.
"We provide grieving children with a voice and a place and community to heal, grow and lead more fulfilling lives," said Brandon English, Comfort Zone Camp program manager.
At last year's walk, as many as 250 people helped raise $60,000 for the camp and organizers are hoping to surpass that this year, according to Pete Bickmore, chair of the walk and camp volunteer. It costs about $500 to send a child to the camp, English said.
The three-day camp is held five times a year in the Garden State's Blairstown and offers kids an emotional outlet through activities like icebreakers, healing circles and, most importantly, laughter.
"You watch these children change before your eyes," said Bickmore. "It's not as sad as it sounds, it's really a lot of fun. Last weekend, I was laughing and crying all at the same time."
Comfort Zone hosts about 300 campers in the tri-state area a year and each one is matched one-on-one with a "Big Buddy" volunteer, like Bickmore. Campers also meet with social workers and therapists.
"We know each camper's story, we know each family's story," said English. "They're not just numbers or statistics."
Registration for the 5K begins at 8 a.m. in Brookdale Park, near the playground. The race will kick off at 9 a.m. with various speakers, music and a group stretch. About 150 people are already pre-registered, according to Bickmore.
Click here for more information on Comfort Zone Camp.