Challenge grant helps kids deal with death

A $100K challenge grant will help grieving kids cope with the loss of loved ones.

When a loved one dies, it's hard on everyone, and especially so for kids. But during the month of October, there is a way to double the donation dollars that help grieving children get the help they need.

The Children’s Bereavement Center is an oasis that provides many different outreach services for children of all ages who have suffered from all kinds of different losses.

Campbell Sullivan brings her 8-year old daughter, Beatrice, to the center to help her process the loss of her 3-year-old brother, who died in an accident.

“We had been here six months when our accident happened to our family and we lost our little boy, and I cannot tell you how many people called us up and told us we absolutely had to come here and they were right!” said Sullivan, who works in the medical profession and has high praise for the services provided at the center. “It's a service I don't think anyone really wants, but it's absolutely vital to healing and grieving and it's an amazing service to have in this city. It's just unmatched. I've never heard about anything like it."

Leslie Wood, the Director of Grief Education and Community Response at the Child Bereavement Center, said that the money raised will help support a wide array of therapy for entire families.

“If we can raise $100,000 during the month of October, the Wade Richmond Foundation will match it dollar for dollar, so we're very excited," Wood said. “We have children in peer support groups by the type of death loss they've experienced, and so we'll have groups for sudden death, chronic illness, kiddos who've had the death of a loved one by homicide, suicide. We have a sibling loss group. We have a ‘beyond family’ group for grandparent loss. We have a little hearts group for three- to five-year-olds.”

Wood added that, across their curriculum, the goal is to give kids a sense of belonging and peace.

“They get the security that it's going to be okay. They are provided an outlet for and a place to express themselves, no matter what they're feeling and they are in a space where they're comfortable and they're secure and they're doing what children do, which is play, which is their task, and that's what we want them to do,” Wood said.

Sullivan says that she knows her daughter is benefiting from the experience.

“I think it's a safe place for her to talk about the accident or not talk about the accident. She enjoys being around other kiddos who have had losses in their lives and she doesn't feel as alone and they can talk about experiences they've had,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that the therapeutic effect continues long after their visits.

“She doesn't talk much about it afterwards but she seems more reflective, and you might hear about it a week later or two weeks later, so she's definitely absorbing it,” Sullivan explained.

Eight-year-old Beatrice easily lists all the things she enjoys about her time at the center.

“We get to play around and we usually make stuff that’s pretty cool and 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,” said Beatrice, who enjoys sharing hugs with therapy dog Bellin that visits the center regularly. "He’s soft and fluffy and a very good listener. He’s kind of a pillow, like a really soft walking marshmallow.”

Dr. Kassia Kubena-Fontenot said that Bellin is an important part of the experience for people of all ages.

“He makes them smile. He helps them relax. He makes them laugh. He's a great listener and they can open up a little more when they're petting Bellin because Bellin relaxes them and helps them feel like they can open up,” Dr. Kubena-Fontenot said.

One way to help support the center is to participate in the upcoming Brew-Ha Roundup on October 28 at Specht's Store. It's a family-friendly Halloween event featuring a 5K, 10K, and Kids Mile races through a scenic route in the Bulverde area.  More information about the event, check out the official website here.

Donations towards the $100,000 challenge grant can be made until October 31 on the center’s website here.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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