Camp Koala launching first camp in region for children who have experienced loss

By Travis Kellar - [email protected]
Camp Koala logo. Submitted art. -

KINGSTON — For children, the death of a loved one can be an especially tragic experience.

Camp Koala’s first camp in the region looks to offer a day of not only companionship and fun for children who have lost a love done, but also to let them know that they are not alone.

The first NEPA Camp Koala will be held at Camp Orchard Hill in Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Any child in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area who has experienced the death of a parent, primary caregiver or sibling is eligible to attend.

The camp is limited to 25 children.

Lisa Streett-Liebetrau, director of Camp Koala, established her organization in 2008. She explained that her sisters Shelly, 12, and Heather, 9, died in a car crash on Mother’s Day in 1989 when she was a teenager.

She wanted to help children who are experiencing the same loss that she did when she was younger.

“After 20 years, I decided to create a camp as a living memorial to them, to help kids who experienced what I went through when I was a kid,” Liebetrau said. “I don’t want kids to spend 20 years grieving alone like I did.”

During the camp, Liebetrau said campers would experience a day of laughter, games and friendship. She also said that expressive and arts therapy are utilized by camp staff to give grieving children non-verbal ways to express their grief in a healthy way.

Some of those include canoeing, fishing, art therapy music and play therapy.

“These are tools that they can use beyond their camp experience, as well as introducing them to other grieving children who have also experienced a loss,” Liebetrau said.

Many of the adult volunteers at the camp are social workers and art therapists, many of whom Liebetrau said have experienced a loss on their own childhood.

Along with giving children ways to express their grief, another goal of the camp is to let children know that they are not alone.

Liebetrau explained that the camp’s model is “peer support, modeling and companioning, were kids are free to explore and express their emotions in a supportive environment.”

The goal, she said, is to break the isolation of grief by bringing kids together who have had a similar experience with loss, along with adults who were once grieving children as well.

“Many children don’t know any other kids who have experienced a death of a parent or sibling,” Liebetrau said. “This is an opportunity for them to meet other kids who have had a similar experience, to feel comfortable talking about their loss(es), to offer and receive support, and to exhale and feel like a kid again.”

Camp Koala logo. Submitted art. Koala logo. Submitted art.

By Travis Kellar

[email protected]

Establishing a foothold

While Camp Koala gears up for its first camp in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the organization itself is also looking to firmly establish itself in the region.

Liebetrau explained that the camp is expanding from the Carlisle/Harrisburg are seven years. This year’s camp is being sponsored by Willary Foundation, the Mattioli Foundation and Celtic Hospice.

Funding, Liebetrau said, has been a challenge.

“Camp Koala is a 501c3 non-profit public charity,” she said. “All of our services are provided at no cost to the grieving family, and we rely on in-kind donations, business, community and individual support as well as grants. All donations are tax-deductible.” We have served hundreds of grieving children and their families through our 1, 2 and 3 day camps, workshops, support groups and community outreach events.”

To learn more about Camp Koala, or to make a donation, visit the organization’s website at

Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews

Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews