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Katy’s Courage 5K Brings Community Together

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Runners sprint from the starting line on Long Island Avenue at the start of the 2013 Katy's Courage 5K Run on Saturday. Photo by Michael Heller.

Runners sprint from the starting line on Long Island Avenue at the start of the 2013 Katy’s Courage 5K Run on Saturday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Runners of all ages and abilities will converge on West Water Street in Sag Harbor this Saturday for the fourth annual Katy’s Courage 5-K run.

The event will raise money for scholarships, pediatric cancer research, and, perhaps most importantly this year, a new bereavement program for children the organization has recently founded in conjunction with the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton.

“We hope a lot of people will come out,” said Katy’s mother, Brigid Collins Stewart. “It’s early in the morning, it’s a beautiful course, and it’s the kind of race that draws everyone from elite runners to mothers with baby carriages.”

The entry fee, if paid in advance, is $25. The fee on the day of the race is $30. Check-in starts along the waterfront on West Water Street at 7 a.m. and runs through 8:15 a.m. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.

Prizes will be given for the top three male finishers, the top three female finishers and the top three males and top three females in nine different age categories, ranging from 14 and under to 80 and older.

Despite enduring the heartbreak of losing her daughter more than three years ago, Ms. Stewart said events like the 5-k run, an annual student classical concert, and a skate-athon at the Buckskill Winter Club in East Hampton help ease the pain and remind her of her daughter’s impact on others.

“She still inspires people. There are people I don’t even know who still call me to tell me what a great inspiration she was,” said Ms. Stewart. “We were very proud of her—and we still are. She went through a lot as a child and even though she did get a bum deal she handled it well.”

Ms. Stewart said she expects anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 runners to take part in this year’s run, and she was keeping a somewhat nervous eye on the weather report, which calls for a chance of rain and temperatures in the low 50s, for the weekend.

If proceeds keep pace with last year, Katy’s Courage will raise about $30,000 from the run, making it the charity’s biggest money maker.

“We’re excited because this is the first year we have fulfilled our third goal, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE,” Ms. Stewart said.

Although still in the development stage, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE will offer bereavement programs for children, including private and group therapy with mental health professionals with a special focus on play therapy. Ms. Stewart said the goal is to have pilot programs operating by the fall.

The Stewarts became convinced of the value of play therapy in helping children cope with the loss of a loved one from firsthand experience. Their son, Robert, was only 6 and staying with his grandparents when Katy died.

“Robert was upset and told us, ‘I never got a chance to say goodbye,” recalled Ms. Stewart.

She said she and her husband first tried to talk about Robert’s grief with their son, but learned that children grieve in their own way and need time and the right situation to open up. A friend recommended the family visit the Children’s Bereavement Center in San Antonio, Texas, where they saw Robert make great strides in his own healing journey through play therapy.

“We believe so much in play therapy, and there is really not much available out here,” Ms. Stewart said.

Proceeds from Saturday’s run will also help underwrite a $10,000 scholarship that Katy’s Courage awards each year to a Pierson High School senior. The stipend is paid out over four years and presented to a student who leads through example characterized y by kindness, goodness, respect and empathy toward others.

The third beneficiary of the run is the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which the Stewarts began with a $25,000 donation in 2012.

Ms. Stewart said the run would never be the success it has become without its many sponsors and other community volunteers. “We are grateful to all our sponsors,” she said. “Everyone gives what they can.”

She said that Ben Krupinski is a major sponsor, through his 1770 House and Citta Nuova restaurants as well as his building company. Other major sponsors include Wainscott Sand and Gravel, Mickey’s Carting, Suburban Sanitation, Riverhead Building Supply, the Bagel Buoy, Sag Harbor Beverage, and Starbucks Coffee.

Boy scouts run the water stations and still other students run the Katy Bug Lane Boutique, which sells baked goods, hair accessories, bracelets and other small items, and the Sag Harbor Fire Department helps set up and take down the event. Nina Landi is the race director and Bruce and Kelly McMahon also provide invaluable help.

“It takes a village,” said Ms. Stewart. “Everyone goes out of their way to help.”

Katy’s Courage Partners with CMEE to Provide Grief Counseling for Children on the East End

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CMEE Executive Director Stephen Long, Jim Stewart, Robert Stewart and Brigid Stewart Collins play with a sand table at CMEE on Tuesday, March 4. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

CMEE Executive Director Stephen Long, Jim Stewart, Robert Stewart and Brigid Stewart Collins play with a sand table at CMEE on March 4. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Katy’s Courage and the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) have announced a new partnership, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE, to provide counseling opportunities for children experiencing grief or heartbreak, as well as support for their families.

Kathryn Stewart was a Pierson Middle School student and beloved member of the Sag Harbor community who died in December 2010 at the age of 12 from a rare form of liver cancer. In memory of their daughter, Brigid Collins Stewart and Jim Stewart founded Katy’s Courage, a not-for-profit dedicated to education and support for families and children through support for counseling services, scholarship and pediatric cancer research.

Still in development, the collaboration will fulfill the organization’s goal of providing group counseling and play therapy for grieving children. The organization’s aim is to provide private and group sessions with mental health professionals to children who have lost someone through death, or who may need support due to divorce, adoption, immigration or other issues. Katy’s Kids hopes to be piloting programs by the fall of 2014.

After Katy passed away, a close friend of Ms. Collins Stewart’s recommended the family visit the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas in San Antonio. They hoped the trip would help Katy’s younger brother, Robert, 6 at the time, process and understand his grief, as well as teach his parents how to emotionally support him so the family could heal together.

“It was such a transformative experience for all of us,” Ms. Collins Stewart said, adding that she and her husband quickly knew there was a real need for such a center closer to home.

Last spring, the vision of bringing similar support to the East End began to materialize through conversations Ms. Collins Stewart and Mr. Stewart had about their belief that healing for children centers on play therapy. Hoping to start a center, they came across a familiar East End problem: the lack of affordable real estate. A friend mentioned CMEE, and, after meeting with Executive Director Steve Long, both parties, realizing their uniform missions, decided to forge a partnership.

“They were very welcoming and very happy to have the community collaboration,” Ms. Collins Stewart said of CMEE. “Their mission really is, as an organization, to reach out and address issues that concern families in the East End community, so really we feel like it’s a perfect fit.”

When the family traveled to Texas, they were immediately impressed by the beauty and warmth of the bereavement center, which works with children between the ages of 3 and 18. Each room offers a type of play of some sort, such as a dress-up room, a room for dance and art rooms.

“Every room is a different way for a child to express [his or her self],” said Ms. Collins Stewart. The expressive therapeutic play models will be recreated at CMEE.

The child gets to choose where they want to play. In Texas Robert chose the sand tray room, where the therapist asked him to take a tray of sand and build a world for Kate.

“As he built the world,” recalled Ms. Collins Stewart, “he would say things or she would ask him questions and that was the first experience we had. And what was amazing about it to us was that through this play, he was able to articulate what he hadn’t really been able to say before. So, we knew that it was what small children— and most children, really—need to be able to talk about their feelings. They can’t just always express themselves without having the metaphor of play to work with.”

To learn more about Katy’s Courage, call 725-7437 or email info@katyscourage.org. To make a tax-deductible donation, send checks payable to Katy’s Courage to PO Box 3251, Sag Harbor, NY 11963 or donate online.

 

Upcoming Katy’s Courage Events:

Katy’s Courage Skate-a-thon at Buckskill Winter Club

This Saturday, March 8 at 4 p.m. Katy’s Courage is hosting a Skate-a-thon at the Buckskill Winter Club, 178 Buckskill Road in East Hampton. Pre-event registration is $20, including skate rental, and 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit Katy’s Courage. Skaters can collect pledges from friends and family for either a fixed amount or per lap skated (i.e. 25 cents a lap) or register on the day of the event with no pledges for $35. The top fundraiser wins a free membership to the Buckskill Winter Club for the 2014-2015 season.

Classical Students for Katy’s Courage

Bay Street Theatre hosts the 6th Annual concert to benefit the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research on Sunday, March 23 at 4 p.m. Ten student musicians will perform a classical concert to celebrate the life of Katy Stewart. There is a suggested donation of $15.

Katy’s Courage 5K

The Katy’s Courage Annual 5K to benefit the Katy Stewart Scholarship Fund is Saturday, April 5 starting at the staging area at 21 Water Street in Sag Harbor. Check-in time is from 7 to 8:15 a.m. and the race starts promptly at 8:30 a.m. The course is rather flat with a few small hills around the village. All ages are welcome and awards are given to the top three males and three females overall, as well as the top three in each age group. Registration is $25 beforehand and $30 on the day of the race.