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Retiring grief camp director celebrates decades of serving Colorado children

Posted at 1:22 PM, Jun 17, 2024

EVERGREEN, Colo. — After decades of making a difference for Colorado children, Sallie Wandling is celebrating with her colleagues with a well-earned retirement party.

"Everyone knows Sallie Wandling across these foothills because of her work as a social worker, as a therapist, counseling, and then with Camp Comfort," said Keri Jaeger, president and CEO at Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice.

Wandling founded Camp Comfort in 1995. It's a program for kids dealing with the loss of a loved one.

"Thirty years ago I was running a grief group for children and looked around the room — there were five of them," remembered Wandling. "I realized there wasn't anything else really for children's grief, because it was a long time ago."

Since then, the camp has given a safe space for nearly 2,000 kids to grieve, to be among other kids going through similar things while also giving them the chance to be kids.

"They do a workshop on grief, and then they will do zipling," said Wandling. "They'll do maybe, a feelings workshop, and then they'll go fishing."

"They're really coming forward with a strong emotional psyche when they're coming out of the camp, and we see that again and again with the kids that participate," said Jaeger.

So much so that many participants return years later as volunteers.

"We have had probably 20 volunteers that were campers when they were kids," said Wandling. "That's how much it meant to them."

And while Camp Comfort will continue on their mission at no cost to any of the campers, after a 34 year career, Wandling is hanging up her camp counselor boots.

"We age out of things," said Wandling. "The kids don't get any older, but I do!"

So for her years of service, we're honoring Sallie Wandling as this week's Denver7 Everyday Hero!

Retiring grief camp director celebrates decades of serving Colorado children

Denver7 features a different Everyday Hero each week. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.