Thursday was Children’s Grief Awareness Day and to mark the milestone, a local non-profit organization announced two important new developments.
During the month of October, the Children’s Bereavement Center was offered a dollar for dollar $100,000 matching grant by the Wade Richmond Foundation. Almost 400 volunteers got busy, reaching out to the community, and they were able to gather $268,000.
The extra $100,000 will not only keep the doors of the center open but it will allow the staff to serve grieving kids in new ways.
Laura Villarreal, the development director for the center, said that the need for outreach is especially high in Wilson County now, where so many families are hurting after the recent attack in Sutherland Springs that took so many lives.
“To really support the families in the Sutherland Springs and La Vernia and Stockdale, just to support the surrounding community because we know the loss is so significant,” said Villareal, who added that they are reaching out to teachers and parent groups across the county, working on long-term solutions. “We are already welcoming families who are reaching out to us, getting phone calls, and figuring out what the best plan of action is for them to participate in peer support.”
Villarreal also said that studies show that at the 90-day mark after a loss, support from family and friends can really drop off.
“So we know that after the holidays, we will know what’s coming up next,” Villarreal said.
The counselors at the center know children process loss in many different ways, and many of them involve play.
"Talk, play, do art, they write, we've had kids create music," Villarreal noted.
Beatrice, an 8-year-old, knows this first-hand. She has been coming to the center for help with the loss of her little brother, who died in an accident.
"You can use your imagination in a lot of the rooms and you can pretend that you are old or young in the time machine. You can dress up in the dress-up room, which I really like," Beatrice said.
Villarreal says that the center also helps extended families.
“The moment a child comes in our center, the parents and grandparents have support groups too, to talk about the things they may be struggling with,” she explained.
To learn more about all the services offered, you can visit the official website for the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas here.
“Everything is free, so take advantage of the resources that we have here for you!” Villareal said.