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Children’s grief support group coming to Gainesville

POSTED: February 21, 2016 12:10 a.m.

When Kate Atwood was 12 years old, she lost her mother to a six-year battle with cancer.

Her family didn’t talk about her mother’s death. It wasn’t until she attended a grief camp in Virginia that she learned how much she needed to do just that.

Atwood founded the Atlanta-based nonprofit Kate’s Club, which offers grief support to children and teens who have lost a parent, primary caregiver or sibling.

Kate’s Club is partnering with Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville to provide monthly support groups for children in the area.

“We know that 1 in 20 children will lose a parent or sibling by the age of 18,” said Lane Pease with Kate’s Club in Atlanta. “So it’s not a small issue.”

Last year, 444 children in Atlanta were served by the nonprofit. Many of those children were commuting from the North Georgia area, and Pease said Gainesville was the perfect central location to serve more people.

“We have families that come from all over, but some families are driving more than an hour to get here to Atlanta,” she said. “It kind of chose us, but I always thought Gainesville was a good location, because it pulls from so many counties up there in North Georgia.”

Kate’s Club meetings will usually be from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the third Saturday of the month, and they are all activity-based, in order to cater to children’s needs.

“Children learn and grieve — really their whole language — through play,” Pease said. “Even teenagers aren’t necessarily going to sit around in a circle and just talk to you.”

Karla Brookreson-Owens, hospice bereavement counselor, said “this is a great opportunity” for the community, because Kate’s Club is an established organization that can begin to provide services to North Georgia children who need it.

Brookreson-Owens said hospice offers some of its own, free, support groups, including visits to schools, offering six-week support groups in collaboration with school counselors.

“We also offer lunch bunches, or a social support group which meet in four different areas — Braselton, Cumming, Cleveland and Gainesville. We also have Camp Braveheart in June and July, which is a day camp. But we love for Kate’s Club to supplement what we offer already here in our community.”

But Kate’s Club differs from tradition grief support groups, because it is specifically designed for children.

Atwood was inspired to help children based on her own childhood experiences. She wanted to give young people an opportunity to bond with peers who have been through the same difficulty.

“Her family never really talked about her mother,” Pease said. “They never grieved together. She really didn’t have coping skills, and she didn’t know any other kids that this happened to. So the idea of Kate’s Club was just getting kids together who had experienced the death of a parent or sibling and doing recreational things.”

Kate’s Club started in 2003 with only six children and an outing to a local bowling alley. Twelve years later, it has reached 1,243 children and their families.

“Over time, it evolved,” Pease said. “It started offering support groups, and now it’s really a mix of social, recreational and therapeutic activities.”

All children ages 5-18 can participate. For more information, contact hospice at 770-219-8888 and ask to speak to bereavement counselor. To register a child for Kate’s Club, go to www.katesclub.org/join.

“We do know there is a great need,” Brookreson-Owens said. “Sometimes, children, parents and caregivers don’t get access to these services because they don’t think there are any. This is one of those things we believe, if we build it, they will come. Kate’s Club is a wonderful thing that’s grown over the years as the community has invested in them and learned about their service.”



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