Rancho Santa Fe couple’s Moyer Foundation camps help children impacted by loss of a loved one and family addiction
By Kristina Houck
Erin Metcalf had one wish: to visit her favorite team, the Seattle Mariners.
In 1998, the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted her wish, and the 15-year-old cancer patient went to dinner with Jamie Moyer, at the time a Mariners pitcher and a Seattle fan favorite, and his wife, Karen Moyer.
Erin died two years later, and the All-Star pitcher has since retired. But Erin’s memory lives on because of the Moyers.
In 2000, the couple launched the Moyer Foundation to provide comfort, hope and healing to children affected by loss and family addiction. Named in memory of Erin, the foundation in 2002 created Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children.
“Jamie and I are the type of people who fulfill that wish, but then we’re also thinking, ‘How else can we help?’” said Karen Moyer, who now lives in Rancho Santa Fe with her family. “We did that as people and now we do that as a foundation.”
The foundation now has 41 Camp Erin locations across the United States, including one in every Major League Baseball city. More than 10,000 children have attended the camps since the first Camp Erin took place in 2002, in Erin’s home state of Washington.
In addition to Camp Erin, the foundation launched Camp Mariposa for children affected by addiction in their families. Both camps offer traditional camp activities, as well as education and support that helps children understand and express their feelings, and learn to process what they are going through.
“There are kids who are distressed because of grief and living with addiction under their roof,” said Jamie Moyer, who recently released his first book, “Just Tell Me I Can’t,” which was co-authored with Larry Platt.
“How do you be a voice for yourself? We’re trying to be that voice and educate kids and adults about grief and how it can have a long-lasting, sometimes detrimental effect on your life.”
In 2013, Camp Erin San Diego held its first session in partnership with San Diego’s Elizabeth Hospice for 92 campers. Camp is held once a year, with the next session set for June 6-8, 2014.
Run in partnership with San Diego Youth Services, Camp Mariposa San Diego held its first session in August 2013. The camp is held five times each year, with the next sessions Feb. 7-9 and March 14-16, 2014.
“When you have the history of 12 years of camps and you have the privilege to visit camps, you know the magic that happens at camps,” Karen Moyer said. “It happens immediately when the kids arrive and they come basically as strangers. No matter how tragically they lost their loved one, they bond and empower each other, and are immediately learning and growing, healing and coping with life.”
“It’s great to have been able to create the camps, but I think it’s even greater to see the kids benefitting from the camps in a positive way,” Jamie Moyer said. “It’s exciting watching them grow and learn, and share and make friends — all the things that take place at camp.”
It costs about $500 to send a child to camp. Camp sessions are free, so the Moyer Foundation raises funds for programs and initiatives through special events, corporate partnerships and individual donations. The foundation also relies on volunteers. More than 70 volunteers supported Camp Erin San Diego this year.
The public will have the opportunity to witness “the magic” in “One Last Hug (and a few smooches): Three Days at Grief Camp,” a short film exploring how children grieve. The documentary, which features Camp Erin Los Angeles, is scheduled to air on HBO in 2014.
“You get a real sense of what happens — the magic,” Karen Moyer said. “You see these kids before camp and you see them six months after camp and it’s beautiful.
“The Moyer Foundation and our mission is strong and powerful, helping lots of kids here in San Diego and all across the country. It will be for a very, very long time.”
For more information about the Moyer Foundation, visit