A Comfort Zone Camp Review

Thanks to Travis for sharing this in-depth review of his first experience with Comfort Zone Camp, and what it was like getting support while grieving the loss of his sister and grandfather.

Honestly, I was a skeptic before deciding to attend CZC. Being 16 it’s challenging to watch videos online of children dancing, holding hands being jolly, especially with your buddies watching the videos with you.

I let them clown on me all they want, I knew I needed some help for my losses. My sister and grandpa passed away a month before, and a day after my birthday in December last year (murder and old age).

Friday

I arrived fashionably late to my first CZC and was introduced to my Big Buddy Brian, actually it was his first time being a Big Buddy. Honestly me and this dude just hit it off. I know professionals match the big and little buddy, and they did one heck of a job.

We had similar stories, politics, religion  – all that jazz. He cracks me up and he understands me.

I’m not used to someone asking me ”What do you wanna do?” It’s just abnormal, since tragedy struck my family it’s been like a domino effect and I’ve been concentrating so much on gently stacking each domino back up, that I lose concentration on my self. I was hesitant to answer, but Brian said “Dude, I’m here for you.”

The healing circles were inspirational and powerful. Each person explaining what happened and what’s going on is a very courageous thing to do, especially if you’re not used to opening up and expressing your emotions. I told my story and that went smoothly; I gave people some good laughs, and received a lot of head nods and sighs.

During the end of each healing circle we passed out pins to anyone that did something more than expected to do.

I received a pin from my big awesome Buddy Brian. As he gave his speech on why I deserved such a noble, priceless reward, he choked. He had more to say but his emotions got to him. I stared at him and I’ve never felt that way before. Someone like him (he was the ‘popular jock’ in high school) having an unbearable moment on why he was giving something to me…unfathomable, heart touching, and life changing. Obviously I made some sort of dramatic impact on him one way or another.

Saturday

At the fashion show our group did the Wizard of Oz theme. I was the commentator and I introduced to the crowd our lovely paper-designed models.

As the crowd clapped their hands, I went to the middle of the stage blocking my group and shouted “I SAY MALI! YOU SAY BU!”  “MALI!” I face the mic to the crowd.. “BU!”, “MALI!”,”BU!”. As the crowd says “BU” I threw my script into the air, dropped the mic, whipped my hood over my head, threw my hands in the air and walked out. I got cheers and laughs! And, I got a pin for it.

After came the bond fire, a time for… well bonding. It’s all fun in the beginning calling out people to sizzle for our group, getting s’mores, watching skits, and singing – just a good time.

Earlier that day the LIttles and the Bigs were each given a flashcard to write on and throw into the fire. Throwing the letter into the fire gives it that spiritual feeling of knowing that it’s going to the right place to our loved ones. Each group went up and tossed in a note while saying in memory of whomever. That bond fire reminded me of my sister’s funeral just before I gave my speech about her. Sniffles and moans, the vibes, the atmosphere, the sounds; I had to shed some tears. Luckily, I had my Big Buddy to lean on for support. Brian and I stayed a while longer just for me to soak it all in and get it out of my system.

Sunday

After our lovely breakfast, we ventured for a morning hike led by the legendary Bob. During the hike we choose something significant that could metaphorically represent our grieving or loss. I threw a rock onto the group to make it smaller, and it broke into a heart shape. I said something like “I chose this because it’s the shape of a heart, and although rough around the edges it represents love in a different way, and it has like orange stuff growing on it, so that’s a sign of life.”

From a previous challenge we started on Saturday we had a paper with the range of “Rock Bottom” to “Nirvana”. Each member of the group placed a rock on the grid for where they are on the grieving scale. I set mine at 3/4 towards Nirvana at first, but when we came back I placed it at 1/4. I came to think it’s not about being strong and keeping my head held high, it’s about getting support and not beating yourself up. I truly was beating the dead horse, I still would be beating that poor old horse if I hadn’t come this weekend.

After that it was lunch time and time to sign shirts. Then the memorial service. Some final performances in honor of our passing love ones. After all this, it was time to say goodbye to the amazing people I met this weekend. It was a short three days I spent with these people, and it feels like I’ve known them for years. All the staff, are just phenomenal in what they do. I couldn’t fathom to explain how much this helped me. I would 10000% recommend CZC too any kid with a similar problem.

I’m at a loss of words describing the camp. I laughed, I cried. I opened my eyes that much more.

There’s also something different about this place. During the Saturday night bond fire as we were loud and enjoying ourselves, we would hear crickets; pretty loud ones too. Yet, when one of the counselors started the moment of silence, even the crickets stayed silent. It’s powerful. Also, for the closing ceremony, memorial service when an act would start on stage the sunlight would pop out, when it grew silent it began to drizzle again.

The first half of the battle is arriving, the second half of the battle is leaving.

Michelle (our group leader) and Brian talked to my mom for a while. My mom told me that the counselors talked me up. I’m not going to brag, but I did get 5 pins this weekend.

Leaving was hard, I gave my Big Buddy a hug for goodbye. Man-O-man was that hard. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s alright I just finished my junior counselors application. See yall on da’ flip side!

36 Comments:

  1. Alisha said on July 20, 2011 at 6:23 pm ... #

    Travis, thanks so much for sharing your story here! Very cool of you to be open about how you were feeling before , during, and at the end of camp. This will definitely help some people who are maybe feeling a bit nervous about going to camp for the first time. You rock!!

  2. Sarah said on July 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm ... #

    Hey Travis,
    I just read your Camp Review article – it’s very good. I’ve never been to one of the Camps, but now I feel like I know what goes on a bit more (I’ve been thinking of getting involved, volunteering). Also I’ve always thought that as hard as it is to grieve when you’re a girl, it’s got to be a whole magnitude higher in a way for boys, especially when you’re young and supposed to be tough and cool.. Great article, thanks. – Sarah

  3. Cathy said on July 21, 2011 at 6:51 am ... #

    You are AMAZING! what courage it took to go and then what courage it took to share your story… keep CZC in your life everyday!

  4. Rakiba Young said on July 21, 2011 at 7:05 am ... #

    Travis, it was very nice reading your story. As i set hear reading it, it gave me flashbacks of my own daughters excitement after spending a weekend at CZC last May. Being a mom of a child who has experienced a great loss is difficult. At times, you don’t know what to say to that child to comfort them. In 3 short days, CZC was able to help my daughter open up & talk!!! What an amazing gift that this organization posses!!! And, you are right when you said they did an amazing job matching you to your big buddy. After talking to my daughters big buddy for the 1st time, i laughed. They hit it off so well. Im glad you were able to experience CZC…as it is an experience like no other. Im extremely proud at the fact that now you will be on the flip side as a counselor!!! Cuddos!

  5. Meredyth said on July 21, 2011 at 7:29 am ... #

    Very impressed by your experience and your creative writing talent! You do really have such a way with words that it made me feel as though I was at camp too. I have been a supporter of CZC since I first learned about it six years ago. I wish it had been around when I was a kid so I could attend. I would like to be a Big in the near future and would be honored to meet you someday.
    Best if luck to you and your healing family!

  6. Bobbie said on July 21, 2011 at 7:49 am ... #

    Travis – thank you for your insight and depth to the changes and healing going on in your heart! My favorite words in the movie SUPER 8 were: “bad things happen, but there is HOPE” (my rendition). I think you found hope. God Bless you!

  7. Traci said on July 21, 2011 at 9:36 am ... #

    Hi Travis,
    My brother is a “Big” at CZC and I’m on their mailing list, which is why I read your story. I’m an editor and I’ve got to say, you’re a really good writer and as the other person who posted said, your story makes the reader feel like they’re there at camp with you. A lot of professional writers can’t do that, so you should be very proud of your natural ability to tell a good story. Traci

  8. angela said on July 21, 2011 at 9:40 am ... #

    I am holding back my tears. I am so overwhelmed with your blog. I lost my husband 6 years ago. I had 2 small boys at that time 10 and 6. Now my oldest is 16 and is struggling. My hope is that he will read this and maybe he will go to camp to help him. And if he goes I know my 12 year old will go too. Thanks again for being honest and open. You are blessed!

  9. kate said on July 21, 2011 at 9:45 am ... #

    travis, your story is very inspirational. thank you so much for having the courage to share it.

  10. Vicky said on July 21, 2011 at 10:19 am ... #

    This is awesome! Thanks for sharing… It’s normal for kids of all ages to be hesitant to come to camp, especially the older you get. But there is nothing like it, and I absolutely agree that the people who match Littles to Bigs are amazing at their job! So glad it helped you, and that you’re going to come back and help others like you! :-)

  11. Nancy said on July 21, 2011 at 10:24 am ... #

    Travis, Wow having some one your age put it so well is going to really help. I have been a big for your crowd and cracking the shell to allow what this great group can really do-is huge.It takes an uncommon confidence, the essence of cool.

  12. Rachel said on July 21, 2011 at 10:25 am ... #

    Thank you not only for sharing your story, but for allowing Comfort Zone to share it with the rest of the CZC community. You are a very brave young man to share your story like this.

  13. Mario said on July 21, 2011 at 10:26 am ... #

    Travis, I am 60 years old, and, lost my father to old age less than two years ago. I am still a student (perineal), and so write incessantly. You captured the essence and translated it from the symbolic form (emotions) to a kinesthetic one. That is raw talent! I had not cried until I read your thoughts/emotions. Thank you.
    m

  14. lloyd said on July 21, 2011 at 10:31 am ... #

    Thank you for sharing your experience with Comfort Zone Camp. Loved your line that the first half of the battle is arriving, the second half is leaving. Really glad you won that battle, Travis.

  15. Nancy McGeoghegan said on July 21, 2011 at 10:42 am ... #

    Travis -

    Grief is a difficult thing to deal with and I was enlightened that you took the chance and put yourself out there to feel your pain and embrace others. You will make a great counselor. Good luck and thanks for sharing!

    Nancy

  16. Ramiro Rojo said on July 21, 2011 at 11:21 am ... #

    Hey Trav’s, Whats up man. Hey it was great to see you with Brian at camp laughing, playing, and having fun. You guys were great at camp. It is a pleasure to have come across a young man like you, Hope to see you at future camps. Keep strong and be yourself, you’re an inspiration. Thank you for going to camp and sharing your story, jokes, and talent.

    Ramiro Rojo.

  17. Sam said on July 21, 2011 at 11:22 am ... #

    Travis,

    You are one exceptional writer and reading your story gave me so much hope. You are going to make an excellent counselor and just an all around great person. People like you are part of what makes camp so special. Thanks so much for knowing how to put your experiences into words.

    Sam

  18. Charlene Williams said on July 21, 2011 at 11:28 am ... #

    Travis,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I recently got involved with CZC and your story moved me to want to definitely continue my journey with them. Through sharing your experience with us, you let everyone know why CZC is so powerful and meaningful. Continue to stay positive.
    Charlene

  19. Peter Roughton said on July 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm ... #

    Travis,
    Thank you for sharing your story. You grew up very quickly during the 3 days you were at CZC. I commend a 16 year old to share your story with us, not many teenagers will let their guard down and share with others.You are on your way!

  20. Christina said on July 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm ... #

    So proud of you, Travis! You will be a great JC!

  21. Danielle Fudim said on July 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm ... #

    Travis,
    I was 16 when I went to my 1st CZC weekend. I couldn’t relate more to your post. Seeing all the videos and reading all the information was overwhelming. But just like you my Big Buddy and I are to this day as close as the night we bonded at the bonfire. I am almost 19 now and I filled out my application to be a Big Buddy! Your story was moving and so touching. It just goes to show how special you are and how important camp truly is. You will be an amazing JC and one day a fabulous Big Buddy.
    “Travis! Let me see you Sizzle!” =)
    -Danielle

  22. Christina G said on July 21, 2011 at 1:30 pm ... #

    Travis -

    Thank you SO much for sharing your story – made me feel like I was back at Camp Hanover (Minus the lizards in the bathroom!) What an inspiration – to the kids who may not be ready to reach out for help and who may be wondering if CZC can really make a difference. As a previous “Big” – you’ve inspired me to rethink my commitment to CZC. Thank you, Travis – I wish you peace for the losses you’ve suffered, joy at the memory of your passed loved ones, and much success as a Junior Counselor and ANYTHING else you want to achieve. All the best to you!

  23. Carlisse said on July 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm ... #

    Travis -
    Thank you for sharing your story. It was so personal and it was very brave of you to share. I’ve volunteered before as a big buddy and continue to be amazed by you all. I lost my mother at a young age and wasn’t that brave at sharing my feelings or story. You are truly inspiring and an example of how sharing can heal and touch so many lives. So glad you’ve put in that junior couselor application! You will be a great buddy and support for others!

  24. Mrs. Moreno said on July 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm ... #

    Thank you for sharing your story, because you were brave enough to do so, I know many will do the same, So sorry for your lost, I have 7 children and one of my son’s was also murdered 3 1/2 years ago so we know your pain. Your healing will continue so don’t be afraid to look it in the eye. Going to have my children read your story. Thank you again Travis.

  25. Janell Bolanos said on July 22, 2011 at 12:04 am ... #

    3 Years ago I took my little cousins chris and Hannah to CZC. Unfortunately, the year before both of their parents were killed. Although, that incident was a tragedy, the only good thing was getting to know CZC. This organization is absolutely amazing!!!! From the moment we arrived to the camp, everyone was so genuine. This CZC organization has made such a huge impact in my life and if there is anything that I can do to give back please let me know. You all have a special place in my heart for all of the love and devotion you have given us. It takes a special person to reach out and help a complete stranger. But you all make us feel like a huge and loving family!!!!! Love u all :)

    Janell

  26. Cindy said on July 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm ... #

    Travis,
    I was a Big only once at CZC but it forever changed my life. Thanks for sharing your story. I still have tears streaming down my face. I too lost a sib. I lost my big brother almost 9 years ago and in his memory I donate to CZC every year on his Birthday. Thanks for sharing your story.

  27. Tessa M. said on July 24, 2011 at 1:26 am ... #

    Travis, what a smart, wonderful, and courageous spirit you have! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story with us and for touching the hearts of all of us who get to read it. I may not know you personally, but I wish you continued healing and joy.

  28. Karen said on July 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm ... #

    Travis,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I was trained to be a big buddy and haven’t made it to camp yet but now I know I will get there! I also lost a sister but I was much younger and have always known I wanted to just be there for other kids. I was so touched when you said that you now know it isn’t about keeping your head high and it’s about getting support and not beating yourself up. That can apply to any life situation, and I would say that I just learned something from an amazing 16 year old! Keep sharing your strength and hope with others!

  29. Jenifer said on July 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm ... #

    Travis, thanks SO MUCH for sharing your CZC story. As a mom, it gives me insight into the experiences of my own two kids. I have wondered what thier process will be like when they become teens, especially my son. Thank you for your courage and honesty- you bring hope to many! My favorite quote of yours is that the first challenge is arriving and the second is leaving. As you receive healing for yourself, Travis, you will have many times more to give. Keep up your amazing work! Thanks again, jenifer.

  30. Renee Hurtado said on July 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm ... #

    Comfort Zone Camp is a wonderful experience, my two daughter lost their dad 4 years ago and I lost my husband. It was very painful for us, and still is, healing is a long process. Comfort Zone Camp give them a wonderful experience and help them how to express their feeling and let them know they are not alone. Last year I lost my mom and Andrea and Elana their grandma, memories came back, is hard. But reading your story touch our hearts, and we knew one more time that we are not alone and sharing your story make us strong and that we always can count with their wonderful team. God bless you! God bless Comfort Zone Camp.

  31. Michelle said on July 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm ... #

    Hi Travis! So proud of you for putting yourself out there and agreeing to be in the email blast for CZC. I hope you are doing well!!!

  32. Polly Allen said on July 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm ... #

    Travis, I know how hard it was to go to your 1st camp. My boys were 9 and 13 when their Dad died. That was in 2000.My oldest didnt want to go at first. I think you “older” guys try to be so macho! Both boys loved camp. My youngest has been a JC. I am sure CZC helped both boys become the wonderful young me they are today.
    CZC is my “soap box” and I will talk someones ear off when given the opportunity. As a Mom, I am glad you were brave enough to go to camp and know CZC will be in your heart forever.
    Travis, I am so sorry for your loss. God Bless You and your family.

  33. Joe Harrold said on July 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm ... #

    Thanks for sharing your experience Travis. I am going back to camp soon for my second time as a big buddy, and stories like yours remind me why I go. I wish you the best as a junior counselor, and later as a big buddy. Keep remembering and smiling. Joe.

  34. Adriana Hernandez said on October 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm ... #

    Hi Travis! Reading your story brought back fun memories from camp. It was a pleasure knowing you in our Healing Circle. You are an awesome young man. I hope to see you in future camps!

    Adriana.

  35. myk said on February 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm ... #

    Travis,
    I live in Va and have been a volunteer for CZC since 2008. I have been to 15 camps as a Big Buddy. Your telling about your weekend at camp brought me to tears, because you laid it all out there so well. You write beautifully and your story telling is magnificent. Thanks for sharing your camp experience. You are going to be a great part of the CZC community. Welcome. You are loved and you are not alone. Thank you again,
    Myk.

  36. Mrs. Peay said on March 1, 2013 at 2:17 am ... #

    DEAR COMFORT ZONE CAMP STAFF:

    I’m overly excited for my grandson Jameer Marshall 8
    who will be attending your March 8-10, 2013 weekend.
    I just read some of the reviews and just by reading them I know I made the right decision. I will be writing back once that weekend is over. Looking for to writing real soon. I can’t wait to hear all about it!!!!

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