Holidays can be especially rough on kids and families who have lost a loved one, but thanks to collaborative efforts by two community establishments, more than 75 kids and adults of all ages from Rockland and Bergen counties joined together for a fun night of bouncing in huge inflatables and riding a thrilling virtual rollercoaster.
To an outsider, it might be unusual to see high-school students choose to hang out with middle-school students and even kids as young as 4. But at Hearts & Crafts Grief Counseling's annual Holiday Gathering on December 16, held at Screamin' Parties in West Nyack, more than 75 kids and adults of all ages from Rockland and Bergen counties—all of whom have suffered the loss of a loved one—joined together for a night of sliding down huge inflatables, tumbling through obstacle courses, and riding a thrill-inducing virtual rollercoaster.
Howard Abraham and Teddy Glytsea, co-partners of Screamin' Parties, donated their 10,000-square-foot facility to the nonprofit that provides families living with illness and loss with a safe, caring environment to help them work through their healing process.
"I lost my dad when I was young. I know how difficult it is to navigate through life missing a parent," says Abraham, who also co-owns Inflatable Party Adventures with Glystea. "Thank goodness there is an organization like Hearts & Crafts to help these kids and families out."
Co-director Terry DeBrule and founder Laura Hudson (center) of Hearts & Crafts Grief Counseling stop for a photo with Teddy Glytsea (left) and Howard Abraham (right), co-owners of Screamin' Parties, who donated their facility for Hearts & Crafts' annual Holiday Gathering on December 16.
Founded in 1994 by Laura Hudson, a board-certified art therapist, Hearts & Crafts Grief Counseling provides its services to all Rockland County schools and understands that kids and adults cope with death in different ways.
"For the younger kids, it's in short little spurts. They can be sad for a little while and then a friend calls or an activity happens-they can turn it off or on easier than [adults]," Hudson says. "That's why our services are not time-limited. Kids can come [to Hearts & Crafts] months, years later—parents can, too."
Each year, the nonprofit hosts two events that help families and children connect with others who are also struggling with the loss of a loved one, including the Holiday Gathering, which gives kids a chance to have fun during a season that reminds families of their loss more readily than others. The second event is a weekend-long summer camp in June.
"Kids have a chance to laugh, jump, and play while parents socialize or join in on the fun," Hudson says of the Holiday Gathering, praising Abraham and the other local vendors who made the event possible. "For the parents, it's a real joy to see their kids having fun. Older kids were taking little kids down the slide or on the virtual rollercoaster. For me, that touches my heart."
For more information about Hearts & Crafts Grief Counseling, visit www.heartsandcraftscounseling.org.