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Staff Spotlight

Grief Counselors 2012Barb Lamperski, Camp Comfort Director

Last summer, Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice’s director of bereavement, Barb Lamperski, decided to tap the brakes on nearly 20 years spent serving her mountain-area neighbors.

“I was ready to do less,” Barb says. “But I wasn’t ready to let go of Camp Comfort.”

And Camp Comfort surely wasn’t ready to see her go. Nobody knows better than Barb what it takes to keep Mount Evans’ groundbreaking bereavement program for children running smoothly, or more fully appreciates the challenges and rewards of helping Colorado’s most vulnerable victims of loss find hope and healing.

Barb grew up in Philadelpha as the younger of two daughters. Her mother was a social worker, and gaining insight into the lives of those around her seemed to Barb an important and meaningful vocation.

“I was really interested in people, how they lived their lives and how they coped with different situations,” she explains. “I loved being allowed to hear their stories. When I was ready for college, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

She attended a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, earned a degree in social work, and met a handsome young man named Mark Lamperski. The two married, and Barb followed Mark’s career west to Salt Lake City. As it happened, the Beehive State was good for Barb’s professional development, too.

“There aren’t many colleges that offer advanced degrees in social work,” she says. “The University of Utah had a master’s program.”

In 1994, Mark’s job called the Lamperski family to Colorado and they settled in North Evergreen. When Barb wasn’t busy being mother to their two daughters, she was often busy tutoring local school children in reading skills, or applying her time and training to Mount Evans in the essential areas of respite and bereavement. The emotionally demanding work suited Barb’s professional and personal abilities very well, and she hired on as a Mount Evans social worker in 1997. A couple of years later she moved into bereavement counseling, and it was in that capacity that she received a formal introduction to Camp Comfort.

“I just helped out where I could, and I was even a ‘buddy’ a couple of times,” smiles Barb, referring to the volunteer “buddies” that serve as the campers’ friends, confidantes and steadfast advocates. “I thought it was really, really cool that those kids had a place to go, and it was interesting to see that side of bereavement. And I was very impressed that Mount Evans had always been so supportive of that idea.”

Barb was named Mount Evans’ director of bereavement in 2007, which post comes with the Big Chair at Camp Comfort. Although the programs serves just 50 grieving children during each of two summer weekends, pulling together a session of Camp Comfort requires months of time, considerable organizational talents and scrupulous attention to detail.

“I usually start in late January, getting the word out to schools, hospitals, hospices and organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters all over the state. I try to talk to as many people as I can.”

Then there’s specialized staff to be engaged, menus to plan, buddies to bring aboard, and potential campers to evaluate and, if needed, arrange funding for. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, staging a weekend at Camp Comfort also requires a strong back. Everything needed to maximize the camp’s healing potential – food, art and craft supplies, therapeutic materials, medical equipment and electronic gear – must be gathered together and hauled to the Easter Seals facility at Empire Junction.

“We usually have about four car-loads going up,” Barb laughs. “It’s a lot of work.”

And it’s all worth it from the moment the first camper arrives on Friday afternoon.

“It’s bereavement, but it’s also joyful, and fun. And it’s so cool to spend the weekend with our volunteers. They’re amazing people. Camp Comfort can be really, really hard, but it’s such a huge experience. There’s nothing like it.”

The fact is, Barb Lamperski continues to devote her strength and spirit to Camp Comfort because her heart will let her do no less.

“I’ll give up Camp Comfort eventually,” she says. “But not now. I do it just because I love it so much.”