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Memphis Orpheum uses arts to help kids with pain of losing parents

When Orpheum Theatre CEO created Mending Hearts Camp to help kids through the grief of parental loss, he already knew their pain.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In an ideal world, we all would have counseling to help us through the grief of losing a loved one. For a child losing a parent, the effects are long lasting through life.

The Orpheum Theatre's Mending Hearts Camp is an unlikely place affording therapeutic relief played out before supportive audience.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can seem a lonely place to be, but the arts camp is helping young people who may have lost a parent or both has already helped hundred of kids across the Mid-South.

Trason Livingston has enjoyed his first experience at the Mending Hearts Camp. He'll move on to 6th grade when school starts with future aspirations computer technology. 

"Yeah, I'm pretty good with numbers," said Trason.

As a child he's living with the loss of both parents, but he's gained some re-enforcements. Trason has found a community of support Mending Hearts Camp is designed to create. 

"We're always by each other's side  and we always help each other."

Although the arts are the center piece of the camp, Mending Hearts campers have one thing in common.

All the kids here have lost one or both parents. 

Ella Egbert is a camp vet who has suffered parental loss herself, but offers comfort to newcomers like Trason. She embracers her role as a fellow camper is to help orient fellow camper to their new life's terrain.

"Things happen, but it's all going to be ok in the end and that's what this camp helps you work through, the lose of your parent," said Ella.

Camp Director, Janita Nakamura says the magic of this camp happens as participants build community through the arts and engagement.

"They listen deeply to each other share their stories. They listen to each other share memories of the loved one they lost and they bond in friendships that you can't manufacture in a short period of time."

Forming those bonds was just one of Mending Hearts Camp's goals when Orpheum CEO, Brett Batterson founded the camp.

It was his intention to match that with the experience of the healing power of creative play. 

"It's been enormously rewarding. You probably know it came out of my personal experience. So, every year that we do camp I learn more and it helps me in my journey," said Batterson.

Because this type of help wasn't available to Batterson after the loss of his father when he was young he's happy to pass this experience on to kids like Trason and Ella.

"The unfortunate truth is that there are always kids who need it and so I'm not grateful there are kids that need it but I'm grateful we can provide it for those kids who need it," said Batterson.

If you would like to make a donation, you can do that through The Orpheum's website.

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