TAPS Good Grief Camp offers help to children losing a loved one to war


14th National Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp Gives Comfort to Children of the Fallen

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 18, 2008

PHOTOS AVAILABLE

WASHINGTON – Losing a parent or sibling who served in the military can be devastating to a child, but war’s tiniest survivors don’t have to cope alone, thanks to TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. More than 300 children, many of whom lost a father or brother serving with the military in Iraq or Afghanistan, attended the TAPS Good Grief Camp over Memorial Day Weekend.

Children attending the camp are paired one-on-one with a military mentor who becomes their special “big brother” or “big sister” for the weekend. They learn coping strategies for dealing with loss through educational activities and gain their own age-appropriate peer support network.

“We’ve found that children who have attended the Good Grief Camp felt a closeness to each other like many have never experienced as they are surrounded by others their age who have experienced a similar loss,” said Heather Campagna, the director of the Good Grief Camp for 2008. “There is a comfort when someone says they understand…and for the first time in many instances, they know it is true.”

The campers also connect their own family’s experience with a national legacy of military service, learning as they visit memorials and participate in ceremonies how our nation honors those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.

Organizers say the depth of loss children experience may not be fully recognized. “When a child loses a parent or another relative in the military, often they suffer secondary losses that are not acknowledged in their lives,” said Campagna. “They might move away from a home, be away from a military base when that is the only thing they have known, have to attend a new school, notice the achingly empty chair at Thanksgiving dinner, and miss their confidante. Connecting with a mentor can be an empowering experience for a child who has already lost so much.”

Mentors said that the experience is very rewarding. “I loved working with the kids. The first time I was exhausted at the end of each day, but I never felt more proud to be in uniform than when a child who has lost a loved one looks up at me,” said Corporal Phillip Vilkas, US Marine Corps.

TAPS will hold Good Grief Camps with a one-day curriculum in conjunction with an adult survivor seminar in 9 locations around the United States this fall, including: Philadelphia, Pa. (July 12); Alabama (July 26); Ind. (August 2); Fort Lewis, Wash.; Ohio; Hawaii; Fort Stewart, Ga.; and Fort Bliss, Texas. A special camp and seminar designed for families who have lost contractors and US government civilians working with the military will be held in Dallas, Texas (August 23).

The public is invited to support TAPS by making a donation online through www.taps.org. TAPS is the nation’s only veteran’s service organization that provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars, case work assistance, and 24/7 crisis intervention care for all who have been affected by a death serving in support of the military mission. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to www.taps.org, call the toll-free crisis line at 800.959.TAPS.

PHOTOS AVAILABLE

High & low-res digital photo files available. Request photos by emailing deadline and file needs to ami@taps.org.

Photo 1

Mentors Help Children Attending TAPS Good Grief Campe Cope With Loss

Monica Williams, 4, of Honolulu, Hawaii was delighted to see her 2007 Good Grief Camp mentor, Javaris Warthen, when she came back to camp this year. For children attending the camp, a relationship with a mentor helps them cope with the loss of a loved one who served in the military. Monica’s father, Sgt. Eugene Williams, died in Iraq in 2003. This is the 14th year TAPS (www.taps.org) has held the Good Grief Camp & National Seminar for Military Survivors. Photo by TAPS.

Photo 2

TAPS Good Grief Campers Lay Wreath at Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery

A wreath made of paper hand tracings from more than 300 children attending the TAPS Good Grief Camp on Memorial Day is placed at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. All of the children attending the camp have lost a loved one serving in the military. Cameron Kocan, 10, from Odessa, Fla., lost his dad, US Air Force Major Keith Kocan, 38. Cierra Becker, 8, lost her father US Army Staff Sergeant Shane Becker in Iraq in April 2007. This is the 14th year TAPS (www.taps.org) has held the Good Grief Camp & National Seminar for Military Survivors. Photo by TAPS.

Photo 3

Wars Tiniest Survivors Send Messages to the Fallen Heroes They’ve Lost

More than 300 children attending the TAPS Good Grief Camp prepare to launch balloons skyward carrying messages to the parents and loved ones they’ve lost during Memorial Day Weekend near Washington, DC. All of the children attending the camp have lost a loved one serving in the military. Many of them lost a parent or older sibling in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is the 14th year TAPS (www.taps.org) has held the Good Grief Camp & National Seminar for Military Survivors. Photo by TAPS.

Photo 4

Hundreds of Balloons Carry Love Skyward From the TAPS Good Grief Camp

Hundreds of balloons journey skyward and carry messages and letters to loved ones lost written by more than 300 children attending the TAPS Good Grief Camp near Washington, DC over Memorial Day weekend. Air traffic at Ronald Reagan National Airport was diverted around the balloon launch site in Crystal City, Va. This is the 14th year TAPS (www.taps.org) has held the Good Grief Camp & National Seminar for Military Survivors. Photo by TAPS.

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