Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Worthwhile Cause-A Caring Hand

Recently, I was introduced to a wonderful organization called, A Caring Hand, the Billy Esposito Foundation. The organization was launched as a direct result of the death of Billy Esposito on September 11, 2001. His daughter Susan Esposito founded the organization as a tribute to her father to honor his passion for education and fondness for children. The mission of ACH is to meet bereaved children and families wherever they are in their grief and fulfill their needs in a caring and knowledgeable environment through services to help them with their emotional journey and financial assistance to aid their future education.

A Caring Hand, The Billy Esposito Foundation (ACH) will hold its seventh annual fundraising gala, Handing Our Children A Brighter Future, on Thursday, April 30, 2009 from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM at the Altman Building in Manhattan.

I had the chance to speak to a representative from A Caring Hand prior to its event.

1. Last year’s event honored Ethan Zohn, winner of Survivor Africa. Who is being honored this year? Why? How do you choose your honorees?
This year we are honoring two individuals that are extremely committed to their communities, namely Henry Buhl and Mary M. McCambridge. Henry is the founder of Association of Community Employment Programs for the Homeless in 1992 and his organization has helped thousands of homeless people throughout New York City find employment. Mary M. McCambridge, AskMaryMac, is a grief and bereavement specialist, award-winning author, speaker, coach, consultant, radio talk show host, and the Founder and President of the Foundation for Grieving Children, Inc. She is the author of five works in her field, including the highly acclaimed Understanding Your Grieving Heart After a Loved One’s Death, dedicated to the surviving family members and first responders of the September 11th attacks, and the award-winning National Directory of Bereavement Support Groups and Services. Her website and blog helps people from around the world better understand their grieving process following a loved one’s death.

2. How does A Caring Hand help kids with their grief? What types of programs do you offer the kids?
Following a death there is often sadness, confusion, isolation, guilt, or even shame. For some young people, grief left unaddressed can lead to hopelessness, acting out, and poor school performance. No child or family should feel they are alone in their grief when facing the challenge of life without a cherished loved .

A Caring Hand’s process to approach to this problem is as follows:
  • A Caring Hand, The Billy Esposito Bereavement Center helps children, teens, caregivers, teachers and professionals learn healthy ways of dealing with grief.
  • Services focus on expression, coping, remembering and community building – the essential components of grief work – using child-friendly activities including art, games and writing.
  • We also help caregivers understand their own feelings, the grief journey of their child and how to feel confident parenting in the aftermath of a death.
  • We help children manage the pain of their past and find joy to take them into the future.
  • ACH also awards educational scholarships to bereaved children who may have otherwise lost the opportunity to pay tuition with the passing of a parent.
We are here to help family members learn emotionally healthy ways to live after the pain of someone’s death. The main program components of the Bereavement Center include:

  • Group support: Our 10 week peer group support program for children and teens and their caregivers runs in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. The program is based on common bereavement tasks and is co-facilitated by trained volunteers and mental health professionals.
  • Individual evaluation and help: We evaluate bereaved individuals to assess how best to meet their needs. services and referrals are tailored to meet the specific needs of family members.
  • Outreach: We do outreach to individuals, schools, and organizations to provide information about services and recruit clients and group leaders.
  • Consultation: We are available for consultation to educate professionals, schools, businesses, and service providers about grief and bereavement.
  • Training: Volunteer training and supervision for group facilitators is provided.
  • Supervision: Professional supervision and training of mental health trainees can be arranged.
Group Program
Children, teens, and their caregivers are invited to attend one of our group sessions. Bereaved children often struggle with the pain of their grief and the pain of feeling different and alone. A centerpiece of the services is our 10 week peer group program for children, teens, and caregivers. At the Bereavement Center members of the family meet with others who are bereaved; with those who share a similar experience, who can validate their feelings, and ease their sense of isolation. The process of mutual aid, which occurs regularly in group settings, is educational and supportive and necessary to the recovery process.

  • 6:15 – 6:45 PM: Family members join together for a light dinner and conversation . After dinner, participants break into individual groups.
  • 6:45 - 8 PM Children and teens divide into groups according to age and caregivers meet in their own group. All groups are led by trained facilitators.
  • All participants are expected to make a full 8 -week commitment in order to develop trust in each other and gain a sense of security. Family members are welcome to attend more than once or join a monthly drop in group.
3. What ages do you work with?

4. What is the most important message you want to get across to our readers regarding A Caring Hand?
ACH proudly opened and operates the only comprehensive, free-standing bereavement center in New York City . Children with unresolved childhood grief following the death of a loved one are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school and twenty times more likely to have behavioral disorders. For some young people, grief cast aside and ignored can lead to life long problems with school, work and relationships. 50% of the youth under age 21 were found to experience the sudden unexpected death of a close relative or friend which represents hundreds of thousands of youth in New York City . This youth is the future of our city and programs like this allow them to be able to receive the counseling they need to properly grieve the loss of a loved one. Here are some additional statistics:

  • After someone dies, children as well as adults can feel sad, confused, isolated, guilty or even ashamed.
  • Children with unresolved childhood grief following the death of a loved one are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school and 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
  • Following the violent death of a parent or loved one, children are three times more likely to have anxiety disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Even two years after the death of a parent, 20% of school-aged bereaved children can have psychological difficulties needing supportive interventions.
  • For some young people, grief cast aside and ignored can lead to life long problems with school, work and relationships.
For further information on A Caring Hand or to purchase tickets to the 2009 Gala, please visit their website at