by Andrew Rudansky
After the passing of their daughter Katy in December of 2010, Brigid Collins and Jim Stewart said they were looking for answers. Katy, only 12 at the time, died after battling a rare form of liver cancer, leaving the couple and their six year old son, Robert, devastated.
On the suggestion of a friend, the family took a trip to San Antonio, Tex. to visit The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. Their time there was a time of grieving as well as healing.
“When we went down to San Antonio we were not sure what to expect, and it turned out to be a life changing event,” said Stewart. “It really helped Robert, and both of us as well, digest what had happened. I think it took us a long way towards healing.”
In Texas the Stewart family saw mental health professionals helping children deal with the loss of loved ones through use of art, dance and music. They saw the positive effects the center was having on the other children there. They saw the bereavement center as a place of healing.
“We were more than impressed by the center there,” said Stewart. “After we were there for a few days, Robert actually came up to us and said ‘wow mom, wow dad, other kids have lost brothers and sister too, did you know that?’”
Their visit left Collins and Stewart pondering the lack of a dedicated childhood bereavement center here on the East End.
“We want to have a bereavement center close to Sag Harbor because, quite frankly, we can see the need for it right here,” said Collins.
East End Hospice, located in Westhampton, already holds childhood bereavement groups in local area high schools as well as individual sessions and their annual Camp Good Grief. However Stewart and Collins wanted to export the model of a specially dedicated childhood bereavement center on this side of the canal.
While Collins and Stewart don’t yet have a location or even a name for their East End bereavement center, they have plenty of vision.
“Over the years we have known so many children who had lost a parent, or grandparent or friend and of course we had lost Kate,” said Collins. “And when we saw the expertise involved in working with children and their families, I guess we were anxious to have something here.”
Collins added that the planned bereavement center would have many of the features offered at The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. The proposed center on the East End would also serve children as young as three dealing with the grief associated with the death of a loved one through a variety of therapies.
“We are really in the infancy of this project,” said Stewart. “We have a dream, it is a clear vision.”
In order to take that dream to the next step, Stewart and Collins plan to divert a portion of the funds from their nonprofit organization Katy’s Courage and put them toward creation of the bereavement center.
Katy’s Courage currently funds pediatric cancer research at the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center in Manhattan and provides a $10,000 award for a graduating Pierson senior who plans to enroll in a four-year college.
The Katy’s Courage charity 5K run is scheduled for this Saturday, April 28 at 8:30 a.m. (check in 7 to 8:15 a.m.) starting on Water Street, Sag Harbor. Collins and Steward added that a portion of the proceeds from the run will go towards the proposed bereavement center.
For more information about Katy’s Courage and donating to the establishment of a bereavement center on the East End please visit www.katyscourage.org.