A fun and safe place for grieving children.

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Volunteer Highlight: Michelle Post - Volunteer, Advocate, & Strategic Partner

 

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Comfort Zone Camp’s mission – their time, compassion, and expertise creates healing for grieving children across the country.  After attending a volunteer training session, individuals are encouraged to choose the volunteer role that is the best fit for them; over time, each person’s volunteer contribution evolves with their interests and goals.  Michelle Post, Manager of Donor Family Aftercare at OneLegacy Organ Donor Network, has volunteered with Comfort Zone since 2009 - her journey demonstrates an evolution from camp volunteer, to youth advocate, to strategic partner.  Michelle’s first role with Comfort Zone was as a Healing Circle Leader (clinical support group leader), and she has since lead Healing Circles groups at 21 programs.  She recounts her journey as a volunteer, advocate, and strategic partner with Comfort Zone Camp: 
 
 
“As a Healing Circle Leader for many years, I noticed that about one-fourth of my groups seemed to have campers connected to organ, eye, or tissue donation.  When CZC expressed a need for connections to grants, funds, or corporations, I felt inspired to go directly to [OneLegacy’s] CEO and share the CZC mission and ask for financial support.   At first, OneLegacy gave financial support to the traditional California programs.  The Foundation and individual staff members contributed in a Matching Campaign.  Then, with CZC data in hand, OneLegacy began to see that donor family children and teens could likely fill an entire camp program at least once a year.  In August 2017, OneLegacy and Comfort Zone Camp partnered to host the inaugural OneLegacy Partnership Camp, serving 50 youth grieving the death of a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver who donated organ, eye, or tissue.  This year, we will host our second partnership camp!”
 
 
Comfort Zone is grateful to Michelle for her commitment to serving grieving youth over the past decade – she had the vision to connect her organization to CZC’s mission, and facilitated the creation of a partnership that will serve youth for years to come.
 
 

 
Thank You, Michelle!  
 

Golf Tournament – for Mailloux Masters 2018 Golf Tournament

 

Fifteen year old camper Jake Mailloux held his second Mailloux Masters Golf Tournament Fundraiser on Saturday, September 8, 2018 in memory of his father, Joe Mailloux.  At the event, Jake honored two important people – Wally Brown, his Big Buddy for the past four years. And then, his step dad Chris Petersen who taught and mentored Jake last year on how to plan and host a Golf Tournament. As you can imagine, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This year, virtually all on his own, Jake created his website and planned the event! 

 

With 60 golfers, an opportunity to win a car with a hole-in-one on the first tee, and numerous silent auction items, Jake’s Mailloux Masters Golf Tournament will donate over $7,000 to CZC! We cannot thank Jake, Chris, and the entire Mailloux and Petersen families, friends, and all of the local community supporters enough! It is truly impressive to see Jake’s empathy, drive, and commitment to send kids to CZC to experience what he did, and to see so many people rally around and support him!  

 

As said on Jake’s Mailloux Masters website, “We hold this tournament every year because of the impact Comfort Zone has had on my life. Three years ago, I tragically lost my father to suicide. I was lost, but Comfort Zone helped me find my way. My goal is to help Comfort Zone provide the same opportunities to other kids and allow them to find their way.”  Initially, he thought, “What better way than to play the sport my Dad loved so much, GOLF!” This year, Jake not only planned the event, but he also played as one of the foursomes!

 

"You may think that this is just another charity event or a reason to give back, but for me this is much more. You are helping children like me to survive...not by hiding or being embarrassed or trying to forget their loved one...but by remembering them, and being proud of who they were and who we are. I want you to know that all the children at these camps can never thank you enough. Because of the support you give us, we now have our own personal Comfort Zone!” ~ Jake Mailloux at last year’s annual Gala

 

 

At the end of the night, Jake calculated how many kids his event will send to camp – a magnificent TWELVE! Thank you Jake, their grief journey will take on a new or different course because of you!

 

 

Comfort Zone presents at the NAGC Symposium in San Antonio, TX

The National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC) Symposium is the longest running and most comprehensive childhood grief conference offered in the United States; professionals and scholars from around the country come together to share and learn about supporting grieving youth.  This year’s symposium was hosted in San Antonio, TX – topics ranged from millennial grief, loss-specific seminars, and innovations in modalities of support (art, equine, yoga, journaling).  Comfort Zone’s Intake Manager Rebecca Desmond and National Program Director Jessi Schmale presented “Meet Them Where They Are: Community-Based Family Grief Programs” - participants learned about the purpose and structure of Comfort Zone’s Family Program model, and how to design a family program in their community. 

 

Several Healing Circle Leaders were in attendance, as well as representatives from Comfort Zone’s partner organizations including The Mark Wandall Foundation.  In addition to seminars, networking, and professional development, the symposium demonstrates that the field of childhood bereavement is full of compassionate individuals, effective institutions, and cutting-edge research.  Comfort Zone is honored to be a part of the NAGC; we look forward to next year’s symposium in Salt Lake City, UT!

 

Ways You Can Support Comfort Zone at This Pivotal Time

Comfort Zone’s focus is unwavering: providing a caring community and safe haven in which children who are grieving the loss of a parent, sibling, or loved one are heard, understood, and taught healthy ways to process their grief.  Our mission is to empower children experiencing grief to fully realize their capacity to heal, grow, and lead more fulfilling lives, and our vision is a society that is actively engaged in meeting the ongoing and complex needs of grieving children.

 

As a non-profit 501c3 organization, camps and programs are offered free-of-charge to the families served through the generous support of corporations, foundations, and individuals. You can help build, re-build and sustain our programming. By hosting your own fundraiser, no matter how big or small, you will help children heal, grieve and grow – and positively change a child’s life foreverThe first step is to register your fundraising event idea, and we’ll send you our Third Party Fundraising Event Toolkit! Just click here

 

Also, your willingness to serve your time outside of our programs also helps us build and grow! Are you interested in helping out in the Virginia office during the week? Here are some other ways to use your time and talents in service to CZC’s mission:

 

  • Serve on a committee
  • Give your time at a special event
  • Support with fundraising and development (in general, or through your employer)
  • Provide logistics at the 5K or Fall Bash
  • Spread the word through local outreach
  • Help with specific research items
  • Create engaging newsletter content
  • Write a personal testimonial
  • Help with a project
  • Host a community type get together event (no budget)
  • Make a donation to help create programs

 

Email your area(s) of interest as well as your name and phone number to [email protected].

 

 

You are Comfort Zone’s Community! We cannot thank you enough for your care and support to ensure our programs continue forever!  

 

 

Scott Family Story: As Their Grief Changes, Different Programs Meet Family’s Need

 

Joan:     In February 2012, we lost our son, Danny to suicide.  Danny was handsome, intelligent, and personable.  I used to joke with him that he had more gifts than any person had a right to have.  He was a talented drummer and artist, an amazingly successful fisherman, and an avid volleyball player.  He had a wicked sense of humor with a contagious laugh. But Danny also struggled with a number of mental health issues; especially substance abuse and addiction.

 

Despite his struggles, there were no indications of suicidal thoughts, so his death blindsided us all and shattered our family.  As devastated as I was by Danny’s death, I was most worried about my then 17 year-old daughter.  How would Christy survive the loss of her brother and suddenly becoming an only child?

 

A month or so after Danny’s death, we were referred to Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) by a mental health counselor.  I did some research on the camp and found that it was a weekend camp program for children ages 7 to 17, who had lost a parent or sibling.  The mission of the camp is to help grieving children heal from their traumatic losses.  With a motto of “You are not alone,” I felt that I had found the right place for Christy, but I wasn’t convinced that she would be receptive to going to the camp.  She wasn’t the type to be eager to try out new things.

 

Christy:   When my mom first told me about CZC, I didn’t want to go because it was only six months after my brother, Danny had died.  I didn’t feel like I was ready to go to a grief camp, until my mom showed me the video with kids playing volleyball.   I like to play volleyball and seeing kids laughing and having fun changed my mind about going to the camp.

 

Joan:   So, on a hot August afternoon, six months after Danny’s death, I found myself on Cape Cod at CZC wondering if we were doing the right thing.  As I watched the families stream into camp, laden with suitcases and sleeping bags, I was amazed.  It looked like any other summer camp drop off.  Everyone looked so normal - they were all dressed in shorts and flip-flops and there were lots of kids running around. But I knew that every one of these families was as broken as mine.  I knew that there was a very important person missing from each of these “normal looking” family groups. And it is in that “normalness” that the power of Comfort Zone lies.  At the parents’ dinner on the first night of camp and at the memorial service at the end of the weekend, I learned that I wasn’t alone.

 

Christy:   My Big Buddy Laura was one of the very first people to make  my camp experience amazing.  To this day, I am still in touch with Laura.  She is like a big sister to me who “gets it.” I was nervous going to my first healing circle, but after other kids my age shared their stories, I felt like I could share mine.  Hearing about the different losses and the age kids were when they lost their loved one, I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only person to feel the pain of losing a  loved one.  Free time and cabin time were good, but the best part of camp for me was the bonfire on Saturday night.  When we put our notes into the fire, I began to realize that my brother was gone and not coming back. Laura comforted me and I felt loved and cared for.  The weekend went by fast but the experience is something I will never forget. CZC changed my life in a way that I did not expect it would.  The experience made me realize that talking about my brother’s loss makes me a stronger person and that I knew I would be okay.

 

Dan:   As a camper parent, I absorbed the positive and optimistic vibe of CZC starting with the hopefulness of Friday drop-off to the joy of reuniting with Christy on Sunday afternoon after the Memorial Service where I witnessed the unity and resiliency displayed by each group. After the weekend, I thought that it would be great to participate in a future camp in some capacity.

 

Joan:   All of us were so affected by the Comfort Zone experience, that we all decided we wanted to volunteer and went through the one-day volunteer training.  As a volunteer experiencing the entire weekend, I became even more impressed by how the camp was run and the fantastic experience that was being provided for the campers. When I was a Big Buddy, I was in the older teen group.  I was blown away by the honest and articulate way in which the teens shared their stories and supported each other.  I felt honored to be in the presence of these awesome teens and felt that I took away as much or more from that weekend than I gave.

 

Dan:   The next thing I knew after attending the volunteer training, I was a Big Buddy at camp for a fifteen year-old boy.  At first I wondered if I could really be of help to a little buddy, but after doing several camps, I just go with the flow.  I try to be present for my little buddy and group and have some fun.  Being a Big Buddy has always felt like I’m doing the right thing at the right time and place. I have come to realize that being at CZC is truly a gift by being able to participate and hopefully helping a young person to heal a bit, share his story, honor his loved one’s memory, and take what he has learned at camp back home.  It is all very uplifting and helps me honor Danny’s memory.

 

 One special camp that I volunteered at was a suicide-loss only camp, in partnership with A Little Hope.  It was a four hour drive to New Jersey, but carpooling with two others  going to the camp made it a fun trip. It was very powerful from the start of the camp, a bit of heaviness in the air knowing that all campers had suffered the grief involved in a suicide loss.   The healing circle formed a tight bond as difficult stories were shared.  I felt like I was connected with our entire healing circle, not just with my little buddy.  We all share the same type of loss.  I remember the group vividly, feeling their pain and knowing that they had a safe place to share their story.  The memorial service was also powerful watching little buddies reconnect with family and finding ways to express their feelings for their loved ones.  This was a very meaningful camp for me.

 

Christy:   Two years ago, I decided that I wanted to do the young adult camp. I needed to feel connected to to others my age to help me deal with the anger and pain that I was feeling about losing my brother. On the weekend, I felt like I could share my thoughts and feelings about my loss without being judged. I was also able to express some other emotions that I was having at school and at home.  Doing the young adult camp also helped me to feel ready to sign up to be a big buddy at a future camp.  I want to give back and help out a girl who has lost someone in her life and show her that she is not alone.

 

Joan:   We have also been fortunate to experience some CZC programs beyond the three day camp.  Christy attended a one-day  camp on suicide loss that CZC put on in partnership with the Samaritans.  This one-day camp also answered my need for support by giving me the opportunity to meet with other parents who had lost a child to suicide and allowed me to explore with others grief complicated by the stigma of suicide.

 

CZC has recently started offering one-day family camps and we decided that we wanted to volunteer as a family for the camp.  As it turned out, we were not needed to help at the camp, but the program director suggested that we might want to go as participants.  We had already cleared our schedules in anticipation of volunteering, so we decided, “why not.”  We were all very surprised by how powerful this experience was for us as a family.  For the previous five years, we had dealt with our grief individually, but the family camp allowed us to process our grief together for the first time.  During the family activity we had to work together to plan how to memorialize Danny, create the project and then present it to the other families.  We decided to focus on all the fun family activities and memories from each season of the year.  The project gave us the opportunity to relive so many memories of good family times, that we left feeling very uplifted.

 

I have carried my experience of CZC outside of the camp bubble.  As the librarian for a middle school, I was involved in helping to select our summer reading book in which the main character, Willow, loses both parents in a car accident.  As a follow-up activity to reading the book, I worked with the school’s service  club to put on a supply drive for CZC.  Our theme was “Send Willow to Camp” and the students brought in supplies that she would need at CZC.

 

As we have walked this road of grief, we have discovered the importance of connections.  It is so essential to connect with others who understand what it is like and to be able to help others heal. We hope that through sharing our story, we can help others to find the healing power of Comfort Zone Camp.

 

Summer Sizzle Community Fun Day!

Join us for a Summer Sizzle Community Fun Day!

 

 

 

New York Life Insurance Company is celebrating Comfort Zone’s campers as well as the summer season with a community day of fun, affectionately known as the Summer Sizzle

 

A day filled with games, DJ/live music, food, and so much more - camper families, volunteers, friends, and community members will have a chance to enjoy the outdoors in the Comfort Zone community. This is also a great opportunity to introduce new people to Comfort Zone and to invite potential new volunteers!

 

Mark Your Calendar -- Summer Sizzle dates include: 

 

  • June 10th at Atlas 42 in Richmond, VA with live music from School of Rock!
  • August 4th at Pageant Field/Merrymount Park in Quincy, MA
  • August 11th at Dunkerhood Park in Paramus, NJ
  • August 18th at New York Life Raleigh General Office, Raleigh, NC

 

Event is open to everyone; however, registration will be required.  More detailed information is now posted on CZC’s website calendar and social media about how to register!

 

We are looking for additional volunteers to help with the planning and/or the day of the event. Email [email protected] if you’re interested and let us know where you live!

 

6th Annual Battle of the Bags Corn Hole Tournament

Corn-Hole, music, food, and fun = over $15,000 for Comfort Zone!

A HUGE thank you to GHT Insurance and the Virginia Regional Advisory Council for a record breaking year at the 6th Corn-Hole Tournament to benefit Comfort Zone!   

 

The day included live music, delicious food, and a lot of competition!  Beyond the fun and the fund-raising, it was heartwarming to see the overwhelming support everyone showed for the children who attend CZC.  

 

As with everything Comfort Zone does, it takes a community to make it successful.  We have so many people to thank: camper mom Jenny King and her son Max, sponsors, all of the participants….it is quite a list, and we are humbled by the support!  For more pictures, and details, visit GHT’s Facebook page here:  6th Annual Corn-Hole Tournament

 

Have your own idea for a fundraiser?  We’d love to hear from you! 

 

2018 Comcast Cares Day

Comcast Cares Day 2018 Park Clean Up Benefits Comfort Zone!

A huge thank you to Comcast -- this was the 5th time a Comcast employee selected Comfort Zone as the organization to benefit from their specific Comcast Cares Day project! Since the inception in 2001, Comcast Cares Day is the company’s annual day of service when Comcast employees, families, and friends partner with local organizations on projects that benefit the communities where they live and work!

 

On Saturday, April 21st, just under 100 volunteers cleaned up 15-20 giant bags worth of trash, helped mulch trails, and took on the “Triangle” at Mine Falls Park in Nashua, NH, all in the spirit of benefiting Comfort Zone. Nick from Mine Falls Advisory Council said Comcast Cares Day is the largest trail day they have! One of the kids helping out turned to her mom about 30 minutes into the clean up and said, “Can we do this again next year, I’m having so much fun!” 

 

Many, many thanks go out to everyone who helped, starting with Comcast employees Lexi Casale, Savanah Plancon, and Marsey Pendexter who led the charge, and Edwin Miller for providing the opening remarks! Comfort Zone will benefit from a Comcast Foundation grant as a result – thank you Comcast!

 

If you have a corporate community day or an idea for a fundraiser, we would love to hear from you!  [email protected]

Glamp for Camp: Comfort Zone's 19th Annual Gala

 

Comfort Zone Camp announced the naming of the Fall 2018 Bert Musick Memorial Camp at our 19th Annual Glamp for Camp Gala Saturday, March 24, 2018 at the Dewey Gottwald Center of the Science Museum of Virginia. Bert Musick was a well-known lawyer for Capitol One before dying after a brief illness in 2014.

 

A sold-out crowd of over 400 people attended this fun glamping inspired gala. The event was chaired by Bert Musick’s widow, Katie Rose Musick, and hosted by celebrity guest actress and Comfort Zone Camp Big Buddy volunteer, Adrienne C. Moore of Orange is the New Black. Over $250,000 was raised in support of Comfort Zone’s 2018 programs.

 

Guest speakers A.V. (age 10), Ryland (age 8), and Katie Musick shared their Comfort Zone experience. Both A.V. and Ryland have attended Comfort Zone for many years after the death of their father, Bert. Katie, a third grade teacher at Collegiate School in Richmond, has become an advocate for childhood bereavement programs and passionate about promoting the mission of Comfort Zone. 

 

The evening included silent and live auctions, cocktails and dinner by Mosaic Catering and Events, and live music by the Center Stage Band. Guests were able to view and purchase paintings by Comfort Zone Camp program participants and campers in the Art from the Heart exhibit. This exhibit was the culmination of a four week grief art therapy workshop led by local artist Megan Nolde.

 

 

BIG BUDDY SHARE: Veronique Sylvia

 

Have you ever been surprised by that feeling you get when you help someone?  Your heart is full and emotions are electrified.  All your attention is focused on that moment in time. It is the only thing that matters.  You realize you can make someone’s life better and feel good at the same time.  It’s a win-win!

 

My story with Comfort Zone began when a colleague at New York Life suggested I attend a volunteer training.  The mission of helping families cope with grief seemed to be a perfect extension of my daily work as a financial professional.  Previously, I felt frustrated that, although I could help make the monetary loss easier, I wanted to do more.

 

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was the right kind of volunteer.  I haven’t lost a parent or sibling. How could I be of service?  After the training, I realized we all have gifts to share, and I felt confident I could help.

 

My volunteer experience began at the Family Day program, which is an opportunity for the whole family to remember, share, and communicate in a safe place.  I was paired with a teenage girl who was quiet and shy.

 

During our first activity, I asked her questions about the books she read. Our mutual love of YA science fiction novels created an instant bond between us. Even though she gave mostly one-word answers throughout the day, I made sure she knew I was there to support and encourage her. At the close of the program, presentations are made from each family for the family memorial project.  To my surprise, my Little Buddy suddenly spoke up right at the end of the presentation.  She shared about her dad and the meaning of her project. 

 

As we gathered up our things to leave, I approached her with a pin in recognition of her courage.  I presented it to her saying that I was very proud of her courage to share and that her dad would be proud, too.  The smile on her face was priceless!     

 

So here I am, writing to let you know that no matter who you are, whatever your life experiences, if you have a desire to help others, and want that amazing full-heart-electrified-emotions-feeling then you have something to offer. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Veronique Sylvia

 

Please join Comfort Zone as we continue to raise awareness of childhood grief and help give families their lives back. Volunteer. Donate. Advocate

 

STORY SHARE: Teryl Bowen

 

On Mother's Day 2016, my husband Richard passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. He was 42, and he left behind our 3 beautiful children who were 6, 8 and 12. The days and weeks following were such a blur. Our thoughts/feelings/emotions were all over the place - ranging from profound sadness, to anger, to shock and disbelief, to feeling overwhelmingly hopeless and helpless.

 

Thankfully, we were surrounded by our wonderful family and friends. However, I couldn’t help but feeling, at times, that we were all alone and that no one truly understood the grief journey that awaited my children and me. I had been with my husband for over 20 years, and I just could not imagine my life, our lives, without him.

 

A couple of months after my husband’s passing, a former colleague reached out to me about Comfort Zone Camp. She had lost her husband several years prior, and her boys attended this camp and benefitted greatly. I was amazed to learn that CZC offered a FREE overnight grief camp for children practically in my backyard! In October 2016, my 8 and 12-year-old attended their first camp in North Carolina.

 

 We were all so nervous and didn't really know what to expect. However, despite our fears and anxiety, CZC did an amazing job throughout the intake process. They matched my children with the perfect Big Buddies who looked out for them the entire weekend. I knew that I had made the right decision after picking them up that Sunday. On the way home, my children could not stop talking about their fun-filled weekend, their amazing Big Buddies, and all of the wonderful connections they made. More importantly, they no longer seemed to feel isolated, and they were able to share with others how losing their father had profoundly affected them.

 

Since then, all 3 of my children have had the opportunity to attend CZC. We have also participated in CZC’s one-day family program, which is another amazing resource designed to help the entire family understand and address their grief.   Through these programs, I have connected with so many other widows, many of whom are dealing with their own grief while raising young children alone. Furthermore, I have recommended CZC to several families with children who have, unfortunately, experienced the loss of a parent or sibling.

 

As for my children and I – we are doing well. We miss my husband more than words can convey. Each day we choose to celebrate his life while doing our very best to move forward. I’m extremely blessed and grateful for my family and friends. I’m grateful for Comfort Zone, an organization that has given my family hope and a way to heal by connecting with others in a safe and caring environment.

 

Please, consider volunteering your time, heart, and if you can, funds, to support this amazing organization.

 

Sincerely,

Teryl R. Bowen

 

BIG BUDDY SHARE: Mike Gains

 

In 2009, I saw a morning news story about Comfort Zone Camp here in California, and immediately visited the website. After watching a video and reading some of the stories, I was hooked, saying to myself “how can I not be a part of this?” Knowing that I’m a Class A Procrastinator, I signed up for a training as soon as possible. Little did I know how life-changing it would be to become a CZC volunteer.

 

It’s been almost 9 years since my very first training, and I have had the privilege of volunteering at dozens of camps in California and across the country. However, it’s still hard to put into words what it is about CZC that has had such a profound effect on me every time I volunteer. All I can come up with... it just makes you feel good.

 

The fact that in just a short weekend, you can fully devote yourself and be there to support someone that is going through such a painful time AND make a difference in their life, is something so special that you just can’t get anywhere else.  Not only am I helping those who need it the most, but CZC also helps put my own life in perspective Even though I don’t have a close personal loss myself, I am there to provide any support my camper might need, be it someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, or just someone to be goofy and act like a kid with. One of my campers shared with me that he liked camp “because it felt like everyone here cared.” Nothing makes you feel better than being a part of that.

 

And here’s the best thing... YOU can be a part of Comfort Zone Camp too. There are many ways to get involved: volunteering, fundraising, or just getting the word out about this incredible organization.

 

At the end of one of my first camp weekends, my little buddy gave me a gift. As he was about to leave, he ran over and handed me the bracelet he was wearing. It has his family name on it and the words “Stand Strong” – he, his sister and dad wear it as a reminder of his mom’s life. He gave it to me so that I could remember his mom as well. As a “dude” (who has been through many years of Man-Training), I’m not very emotional – but at that moment, I got very emotional. When he gave me his bracelet, I became part of that family. Not only am I thankful to be a proud supporter of an incredible organization, I am now part of a child’s life and an advocate for the memory of his mom… something I proudly wear with me wherever I go.

 

With your support, you can help kids find a safe, fun place to learn about their grief. You can give them a voice. And, most importantly, you can show them they are not alone by giving them a group of people passionately dedicated to providing support and understanding.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Mike Gains

 

Please join Comfort Zone as we continue to raise awareness of childhood grief and help give families their lives back. Volunteer. Donate. Advocate.

 

 

 

STORY SHARE: Jeff Mah

 

It all started when my wife Anne felt a lump in her breast while breast feeding our son Ryan when he was 5 months old. It turned out to be breast cancer.  Immediately she had to stop breast feeding and go through her various treatments and surgeries.  After her treatments, Anne's cancer was deemed to be in remission. 

 

We continued to live our lives as a happy family.  Two years later, Anne's cancer came back very aggressively.  She seemed to be in perfect health and then went into a coma a week later.  Two weeks into the coma she passed away.  Ryan and I never had a chance to say goodbye to her.  I'm sure she knew how much we loved her and how much she had enriched our lives.

 

When she passed away, one of the hardest things I had to do in my life was to inform our son that he will never see his mom again.  I needed all the strength and courage to bring up those words that night.  Ryan was sad of course, but he was more concerned about me at that time as I had broken down.  To this day, we bring strength to each other and we look for strength and support from our friends, family and support groups such as Comfort Zone.  It's been over 5 years now and there's hardly a day that goes by where we don't think or speak about her. 

 

I was introduced to Comfort Zone through a former colleague when I used to work at Z-100 in NY City.   Through Facebook, he read what happened and reached out to me to provide comfort to me and my son.  This is when he told me about Comfort Zone, and I never looked back.

 

My son and I have gone through several Comfort Zone programs and camps, and it has taught us to communicate our grief in non-traditional ways.  We've learned to connect with each other and with others better.  We still have our emotional roller coasters, especially during the holidays, but now we know there are tools and methods in how to deal with those emotions.  We know we are not alone in our situation and we've connected with other families who are going through the same experience.  These connections are priceless and ones that we will carry for a very long time.

 

Just make that first step and reach out to Comfort Zone. Please consider volunteering your time, heart, and if you can, funds, to support this amazing organization.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeff Mah

 

STORY SHARE: Bonita Oliver

 

My beloved John was an amazing dad, an athlete, a healthy vegan, an adventurer and an unwavering optimist. He had just begun a huge documentary film project under the umbrella of his own film company. He drew so much strength from being a dad to our three young children.  After this big career windfall John and I began looking at buying a house to finally settle our family outside of the city. John told me that I would be able to shift my energy from a “survival job” to the pursuit of my career goals. Things were looking so good for our whole family. 

 

In November of 2014 - Two days after John’s 40th Birthday and two days before Thanksgiving, John was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. Receiving this diagnosis was like each of us being sucker punched then stabbed in the gut by our best friend. The universe had betrayed our hopes. It was devastating. 

 

For 5 months John, being the perpetual positive thinker that he was, believed he would fight and overcome the statistics stacked against him. I supported him and tried to be there for him and for our children the best I could. I wanted to savor each and every moment- as a family. Neither of us thought he’d go so quickly. After months of pain and nausea and the inability to do the things he used to love - John took his last breath at 2:28AM. It was April 18th. Our children -Ezra, Kefirah and Anais had lost their father at the ages of 4, 6 and 8.  

 

The months to follow were the most violent roller coaster ride of our lives. My kids and I held each other in the night.  In the day we cried together. We joined support groups for grief, and went to individual counseling, but there was just so much being thrown at us on top of the unfathomable darkness that losing John had wrapped us in. As time continued to pass, the hands-on support of those friends dwindled. The support groups were a boon for us, but the joy was just so shallow and fleeting. The kids felt so different and isolated most days... Until the discovery of Comfort Zone Camp. 

 

Comfort Zone allowed my kids to bond with others who had lost some of the most intimate relationships of their lives. These new friends could relate deeply to the feelings my children were/are experiencing. Profound connections were made and they gained a deeper sense of peace. It’s like my children somehow matured in one weekend- crazy as that sounds. They suddenly had new language to speak about their feelings. They got through to me with a clarity that wasn’t there before. This was something different, and I am so happy for it. I am ever grateful to the people of Comfort Zone- the love they showed my kids and the good times they encouraged. The dedication of staff and volunteers is so touching.

 

My children hope to go to camp each and every year until they too can be volunteer counselors. I look forward to the many years of healing and growth. 

 

Thank you endlessly for this gift, 

 

Bonita Oliver

 

Please join Comfort Zone as we continue to raise awareness of childhood grief and help give families their lives back. Volunteer. Donate. Advocate.

 

Community Programs: Grief Support & Awareness

 

Comfort Zone strives to create responsive programming that meets youth where they are on their grief journey.  In addition to 3-day Weekend Camps, Family Programs, and Partnership Programs, this year Comfort Zone introduced Community Programs.  Young people spend the majority of their waking hours at school; school is a place of learning and development, but it can also be a stressful environment for grieving young people.  The Community Program brings together students, teachers, parents, and administrators to explore the experience of loss in the school setting, and offers opportunities for the community to better understand grief.

 

The inaugural Community Program was created in partnership with a Comfort Zone volunteer and former camper, Maddie Bruster.  She saw the need for grief support at her school, James River High School, and worked with staff to tailor the program to the students and faculty in her community.  The program, entitled “Living with Grief”, was held after school in the high school cafeteria and auditorium.  It began with a “story share” from a fellow student – he talked about the death of his parent, and how grief affected his time at school.  Program participants and volunteers talked about their own experiences with loss, and how to best support others in their grief.  The evening concluded with a roundtable conversation about Action Items that participants could take back to their friends, classrooms, and schools to better support grieving youth.

 

The second Community Program was held on December 13th at Weymouth High School in Weymouth, MA - volunteers, students, parents, and teachers gathered to engage in community-building and awareness around the effects of grief in their school.  The Community Program provided participants with a safe space for grievers and supporters to share, learn, and connect.  Comfort Zone will continue to offer Community Programs in 2018; staff and volunteers are excited to create grief-inclusive spaces at schools and in the communities we serve. 

Comfort Zone Volunteer Spotlight: Andrew Dooley

 

 

 

    Volunteer

 

    Spotlight:

 

     Andrew Dooley

 

 

 

"If someone wants to invest in an organization that they know has a profound impact, if they want to know that they are making a difference through their contribution, Comfort Zone is it."

 

 

 

 


 

 

How many Comfort Zone Camp programs have you been a part of?

I lost count a while ago, but it’s somewhere around 50 or so.

 

What keeps you coming back and volunteering with Comfort Zone?

That’s easy – the kids. Camp works, it changes lives, and it’s easy to come back when you see what it accomplishes. It transforms a kid that has gone through the worst time of their life. One of the best parts of camp is coming back and seeing a child that is so much happier and more carefree than a year ago, to see a camper that has let go of the intense feelings grief can bring and that is excited to be back at camp.

I’ve made a lot of friends with the volunteers and staff, but it’s definitely seeing how the kids become transformed that keeps me coming back. They’re so resilient and strong – absolutely amazing and inspiring kids. Comfort Zone gives the support to know they are not alone and that things will be okay.

 

Why should someone invest in Comfort Zone Camp?

Basically for the same reason I listed for why I volunteer, it’s effective.

If someone wants to invest in an organization that they know has a profound impact, if they want to know that they are making a difference through their contribution, Comfort Zone is it. I implore you to contribute to Comfort Zone and literally change the life of a child for the better. There are so many more children we can help if the funding is there. 

 

 

 

Donate Today

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Family Program: ConnerStrong

The Family Program model was created to build a bridge between the magic that happens in the camp model, and an awareness that we could be doing more for families once our campers went back into their homes and communities.  Children and teens living with loss need communities around them that support and grow the tools that are given at camp.  CZC is very excited by what we are seeing in our family program model.  We have had the honor of supporting more than 200 families in our family model so far this year.  One of our stand out family program moments has been to meet the Worosz family.  Staff and volunteers alike were struck by their raw courage in participating in the December 2016 family program.  They brought members of their family, and extended family for tools and support around the loss of their beloved Conner.    It was at the completion of this program that Conner’s father, Tom, made a passing comment to “sell some t-shirts or something” to mark the occasion.  Conner’s family stayed in touch with us post-program, and kept us in the loop about their new normal. His younger brother, Jack, came to a three-day program to continue support later in the year.  Tom reached out to let us know that he had formed a 501c3, The ConnerStrong Foundation in Conner’s memory, and was working on a plan to support our work with communities, and to raise awareness about suicide.  The result of this labor of love was an incredible inaugural golf tournament that was held on October 16, 2017, in Northern Virginia.  Our CEO and Director of Development were on hand to receive an incredible gift of $7,800 from the event to go towards programming and building grief-friendly communities.  The Worosz Family are an incredible testament to the ways that families can come together in their grief.

 

To hear more about Conner's story, and the work of the ConnerStrong Foundation, please visit www.connerstrongfoundation.org

Thank you to our generous 2017 Grief Relief 5K Sponsors!

Thank you to our generous 2017 Grief Relief 5K Sponsors!

You make it possible for kids and families experiencing grief to attend Comfort Zone Camp's programs to heal, grow, and lead more fulfilling lives.

 

 

 

 

Massachusetts 7th Annual Grief Relief 5K:

 

Many thanks to the Harris Family Foundation, Acelleron Maternal Health & Wellness, Colliers International, Prime Motor Group, Winchester Co-Operative Bank, Comcast Xfinity (and their awesome Touch A Truck), BOSE, British International School of Boston, Brown & Brown Insurance of Massachusetts, KBW Financial Staffing & Recruiting, Salem Five Charitable Foundation.

 

Also to Mix 105.1 Street Team, Stop & Shop (Winchester, MA), Whole Foods (Woburn, MA), U.S. Foods, Floral Demonstration by Elaine Haney, Reiki & Card Readings by Jenifer Keefe, Sports Massages by Jeff Spratt Muscular Therapies, and Trauma Informed Yoga by Sarah Hoffman Yoga! Plus, all of the Silent Auction donors and so much more - especially the fabulous volunteer who helped out!

 

 

New Jersey 8th Annual Grief Relief 5K:

 

Many thanks to Samsung, Hopes & Dreams Foundation for Children, New York Life Insurance Company, RC Andersen Construction & Consulting.

 

Also to Fresh 102.7 NY, KPMG, Stop & Shop (Wyckoff, NJ), Zumba Fitness's Natalia And Mercedes, the Bells of Remembrance, Touch a Truck, Nick Petrone, Hearts of Hope, and Silly Pencil. Plus, all of the InKind donors and so much more - especially the fabulous volunteers who helped out!

 

 

 

Virginia 2nd Annual Grief Relief 5K:

 

Many thanks to Altamirano Consulting, Patient First, Markel, Tom Love, CFP, CRPC, Richmond Road Runners Club, Innsbrook Foundation, Niagra Bottling, Punch, Network Building + Consulting, Towne Bank, Haley Auto Group, and Westhampton Family Psychologists..

 

Also special thanks to Craig Heah and Megan Wolfgang for once again co-chairing the event, the Richmond Seal Team, Fleet Feet Sports of Richmond, and all the fabulous volunteer that helped out!

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