Summer camp: when you work at Hayes Locums, it can be one of the perks of the job.
"After a year with the company, you get the opportunity to donate your time through Hayes Helps — a collaboration with different charities and organizations, both locally and around the country," says Terrence Gibson, advanced practice consultant at Hayes. "I've been a camp counselor in the past, and I've worked with kids through the Special Olympics, so I immediately felt like Experience Camps would be right up my alley."
And he was right.
This past summer, Terrence — along with three of his Hayes Locums colleagues — spent one week at Experience Camps, a nonprofit that champions the nation's 5.3 million bereaved children through no-cost camps created to help them thrive.
"I didn't know what to expect, but the experience the camp provides, the kids, the staff — words don't do it justice," he says.
In a recent conversation, Terrence tried to find the words to describe the life-changing opportunity, one that he hopes to experience again in the future.
Q: The kids at Experience Camps have been through something many adults can't even relate to. What did you hope to bring to them as their counselor?
A: Honestly, I just wanted to show them a great time. We were there a few weeks before school started back up again, so having as much fun as possible was the top priority.
We wanted our bunk to feel like a safe, loving environment where they could just be themselves and surround themselves with people who genuinely care about them and their stories. We created a haven for these kids, and that's something I'm incredibly proud of.
Q: How did you create such a space?
A: My coworker, Nico, and I were co-counselors, so we worked together to spend as much quality time with the boys (ages 10–11) as possible. We taught them new card games, spent hours talking, and, honestly, stayed up way too late most nights.
We kept it fun and comfortable. We didn't want the boys to feel like they had to share or participate in everything, but we were there if they wanted to. There wasn't any pressure — and I think that focus made everyone open up more than any of us expected.
Q: What else does Experience Camps offer to help kids grieving a significant loss?
A: There's an activity for them every hour, on the hour, including a designated time when they can meet with a clinician. There's horseback riding, ziplining, a talent show — literally something for everyone and every background.
One of the week's highlights is a campfire where there's a stage for the boys to get up and speak about their loved ones and their experience if they want to. Many of these kids have lived with their grief for years and have never had the opportunity to speak about it. Some stayed quiet while others were more vocal, but just having that space to open up with people you know can relate — that experience was invaluable.
Q: For an entire week, you're focused on one thing: Helping these kids with their grief. How did that impact you moving forward?
A: It's funny, you feel like these opportunities are for you to give yourself to others, but it's actually very self-rewarding.
My biggest takeaway was just the ability to step back and get a better perspective on what's really important. For many of us, especially as we get older and busier, we lose sight of that. But seeing the hardships that other people are going through makes you realize that if you think you're having a bad day, it's not the end of the world.
Q: So, will you come back?
A: Oh, definitely. Setting some time aside to make a difference and seeing the growth that these kids experienced from the first day to the last — it was one of the most moving things I've ever been a part of. I just hope we were able to impact them as much as they impacted us.
Experience Camps is one of the opportunities given to our employees through our Hayes Helps program. We're committed to contributing to our communities, both local and nationwide, and are proud to provide our employees with a variety of volunteer options to choose from. Our hope is that through Hayes Helps, everyone can feel good about contributing in a meaningful way and helping where they can.