CARNIVAL PROVIDES CHEER FOR KIDS
St. Francis initiative provides grief support for Brevard children and families
Summer vibes were in the air recently when St. Francis Reflections Lifestage Care hosted its first-ever Summer Carnival for children and families who are part of the nonprofit's NorthStar Child Grief Program. The program provides grieving children and their families free access to professional counselors who help them work through their grief by teaching healthy coping skills in a safe and supportive environment. Currently, nearly 100 children and youth are being cared for through the NorthStar Program and almost all of them showed up for the special afternoon.
The event included inflatables, carnival games, a "Beat the Bucket Challenge," face painting, a raffle, a group art project to mark the occasion, and standard can't-miss fair food, including popcorn, cotton candy, and snow cones. Additionally, the Cocoa Police Department made a special appearance with three of their four-legged officers – "K9 Bear," who recently won the US Top Dog Challenge, "K9 Kyra," and "K9 Cooper" – who put their talents and tail wags on display. ABC Dog Training of Mims brought out dogs for agility displays.
"St. Francis is an organization with the community at the forefront of everything we do," said Mary Larson, Director of Community Engagement at St. Francis Reflections Lifestage Care. "Through this important initiative, we help children in our community navigate the big and important feelings that come with grief through counseling and opportunities to have fun and build relationships."
During the pandemic, the team at St. Francis found creative ways to interact with the children and their families while staying safe, including a drive-through holiday party with Santa and Mrs. Claus, an outdoor movie night, a trip to the zoo, and a scavenger hunt in the park.
"We know that kids need access to critical counseling, but they also need opportunities to make new and meaningful memories," said Lynn Kiefer, Program Coordinator for NorthStar, who helped establish monthly family days for the NorthStar Program when she joined St. Francis. "We were happy to see the kids in our program able to have fun and just be kids."
The carnival was made possible thanks to the support of St. Francis' board of directors, foundation members, employees, and volunteers. Prizes were donated by McDonald's, Sky Zone, Kelsey's Pizza of Cape Canaveral, Planet 3 Extreme Air Park, CW Theaters, Mayor Hal Rose, and the Brevard Zoo. Grants were provided by the Community Foundation for Brevard - Barbara Wells Family Foundation, and the Cocoa Rotary. The Community Credit Union provided volunteer support.