Gabino Fernandez knows first hand how important a care taker, a priest, or a counselor can be for a child. Fernandez came from Cuba in the early 60’s, with other children, alone, as a Pedro Pan. Operation Pedro Pan or Peter Pan was the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere. More than 14,000 Cuban youths arrived alone in the United States from Cuban parents fearing indoctrination and that the Cuban government would take away their parental authority. And thanks to all of the priests, especially Father Bryan O. Walsh of the Catholic Welfare Bureau, created the program to provide air transportation to the United States for Cuban children. It operated without publicity out of fear that it would be viewed as an anti-Castro political enterprise.
Fernandez volunteered his services this year to Camp Erin run by the Moyer Foundation and Catholic Hospice. Camp Erin is the largest national bereavement program for youth grieving the death of a significant person in their lives. Children and teens ages 6-17 attend a transformational weekend camp that combines traditional, fun camp activities with grief education and emotional support, free of charge for all families. Led by grief professionals and trained volunteers, Camp Erin provides a unique opportunity for youth to increase levels of hope, enhance self-esteem, and especially to learn that they are not alone.
“I’d like to express my appreciation to be part of that awesome experience at Camp Erin. The good people from Catholic Hospice along with the volunteers and everyone else involved will not be a forgotten experience” states Fernandez.
Fernandez lost his beloved dad at age 10 and 20 months later became a ‘Pedro Pan’ himself. “I must tell you I felt very much like the campers in many instances. The program gave me the opportunity to be among those who shared the same experience I lived through and made it! This weekend was my opportunity to give back, in memory of those , who gave me so much when I needed it most. It was my time to pay a little of it forward”.
To learn more about Camp Erin and Catholic Hospice, please visit our website at https://www.catholichealthservices.org/catholic-hospice/programs/