For Pierre Day and his fellow campers, sharing stories of loss and good memories is part of the healing process at the Comfort Zone Camp. The wounds are still raw after Day's brother and cousin were gunned down in the North Lawndale neighborhood in 2009. But participating in this free camp allows him and his younger brother Paul to break the emotional isolation and build confidence. This camp is for children who have lost a parent of sibling to homicide.
"You get to meet a lot of people that are in a similar situation and some are the same, and it's like being able to be there for somebody and have them be there for you that actually understands what you are going through," Pierre said.
"It was painful and it was my first time telling somebody about my story. I lost my brother," said Paul.
Paul Day didn't talk about that fatal day ever until he attended the camp. Sharing the details let's him see he is not alone.
Kevin Doyle recently told his story to the campers because he knows all the emotions they are experiencing. He was 17 years old when his mother was murdered in the garage of their Palos Park home during a botched robbery in July of 1993. He said a camp like Comfort Zone would have been helpful.
"I remember everyone saying hey there goes the guy who's mother was murdered. And I felt alone," said Doyle.
Doyle and his two sisters created the Sheilah A. Doyle Foundation to provide college scholarships. It now also partners with the Comfort Zone Camp, a national non-profit that works with grieving children.
"I think it's an opportunity to come together and find their voice and hearing the voice of another child creates a sense of hope and creates a sense of connection. What once defined you negatively becomes your rally cry of who you will become," said Pete Schrock, national director, Comfort Zone Camp.
At the end of the three-day session campers placed feeling leaves on a tree that represents the theme of the weekend.
Willie Mae Dobbins, Pierre and Paul Day's grandmother, says the camp has been a life saver.
"Sometimes an outlet cannot be with family. A setting like this I feel strongly this is the best place for dealing with that," said Dobbins.
Dobbins' grandson had this advice for the campers and his hopes for their grieving and growth.
"This is the second time I able to be here. It gets better as you go along," said Pierre.
Pierre Day says he and his brother Paul are planning to attend the camp next year. The campers take home t shirts with messages from their new friends and they plan to continue the relationships on the Internet. Comfort Zone Camp also has an online community where you can share and remember loved ones by creating interactive memorial walls. If you would like to donate to the camp or get more information, visit sadfund.org.