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The 2020 Gala Co-Chairs Speak on Their Own Grief Journeys

Keisha Hunt and Tanya Sam
2020 Mourning Glory Gala Co-Chairs

Keisha Hunt

I have been involved with Kate’s Club since 2009 when my son Cole was 8 years old. His father, Clifton, died at the age of 31 in a single car crash in Atlanta, going on a routine trip to the store to pick up lunch supplies for Cole. It was a devastating time for our family – Cole struggled mightily with his father’s death and I was eager to find therapeutic resources to support him (and me) with the grief. My older sister recommended a camp environment, something with adventure and fun that would not feel as intimidating as traditional therapy. I did a ton of research and found only one option – Camp Good Mourning. When we first visited Kate’s Club I was amazed to realize there was a full suite of programming for children and parents. The Holiday H.U.G.S. was an annual favorite. Cole thrived in the fun, pressure free environment and I remain grateful that we found this organization so early in his journey.  

Keisha’s son Cole (around age 5)
with his father, Clifton.

As a parent, I was laser focused on Cole’s recovery but realized through participating in Park Bench and other sessions that my healing was just as critical as Cole’s. I missed Clifton just as Cole did, but for a different reason – I felt robbed of the opportunity to share in our child’s growth, for his father to see the wonderful young man that Cole was growing into. And it was reassuring to meet other parents who sought to cope from similar feelings of guilt, anger, loss, sadness, and fear. 

My family, friends, and my husband Eric (who I married in 2012 and has been an amazing stepfather to Cole) have all rallied around us, creating a cocoon of support and love. They help us to keep Clifton’s memory alive. But the loss remains. There will always be a dull ache – a quiet pain that does not go away but thankfully can be quieted with time and the sharing of memories. Cole is entering his 3rd year of college now, an Honors Student who is quick to smile and has kept all of his mementos from Kate’s Club. He was present at the 2018 Gala when he graduated from high school and now speaks openly about his experience and his father’s death. Isn’t that what we want? For all of us to share our stories, to reveal the painful truth without fear, or the pressure of having to make others feel comfortable with our grief and pain. That’s the gift of Kate’s Club. It is the gift of freedom to be on this evolving, complicated journey of grief.

Cole’s senior photo from 2018.

I am grateful to use our experience to help other families. The tragedy of losing Clifton so young, so early, and so suddenly, is buffeted by knowing that we are giving back, using our experience to change the narrative around grief and loss. I was one of the first parents to serve on the Kate’s Club Board of Directors, I served on the Capital Campaign committee, I was there when we broke ground on the new Clubhouse, and I have the honor to serve as the Co-Chair of the 2020 Kate’s Club Mourning Glory Gala.

I am so proud and humbled to be part of Kate’s Club, to contribute to the magic and the joy that lives in this community, and most of all to pay homage to my dear son Cole as we create a world where it is okay to grieve.  

Tanya Sam

I am so proud to be a member of Kate’s Club Board of Directors and also this year’s co-chair of the Mourning Glory Gala.  Kate’s Club is the one club that no one ever wants to be a part of but once you are, it is a magical place.

My mum passed away suddenly when I was 12, so I knew first-hand the feelings of grief; anger, sorrow, denial, and blame.  I know how difficult it is to work through an emotional catastrophe, and this is why I am so passionate about the work we do at Kate’s Club.  

Tanya, around 7 or 8, making a silly face with her mum, Sandy.

Her death was shocking, unexpected and abrupt.  At 12, this was not something that I could understand and I still struggle with her loss to this day.  Thankfully, and because of a healthy support system, I have been able to move forward and heal.  I had my father, step-mother, my siblings, and a large extended and  supportive family to comfort me.  I had adults around me that were empathetic and able to lead me through my healing journey that still continues to this day. 

Several years ago I stumbled across Kate’s Club and becoming involved in this organization as an adult has allowed me a deeper healing that I didn’t even know I needed.  By volunteering, attending our programs, and participating in Camp Good Mourning, I have been able to be  around our phenomenal children and teens. It has been a gift to my soul.  Today I ask you to help give that gift to more children and families that are grieving the loss of a loved one by supporting the Kate’s Club Mourning Glory Gala.

Kate’s Club provides resources to support children and teens surviving their personal tragedies. Even with my invaluable family, I, along with them, could have benefited from additional expert advice.  

The passing of my mum and the grieving of her death has left an indelible mark on my soul that can never be erased, but it is a part of my strength and has made me the resilient woman that I am today.  I often think of grief as a wave that can come up from behind, out of nowhere and knock you down. It is always best to have the tools in place to face it.

Tanya with her mum on the couch.

I have a memory in 6th grade, a few months after my mother had passed away and the family visits and food deliveries stopped coming in.  In the middle of the class, a wave of reality about my mother’s death hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn’t handle what I was feeling and I started to cry.  The kids around me were startled and began to look over while one of my friends jumped up to console me.  This was the last thing I wanted.  I was so embarrassed; I wanted to be invisible and melt into the floor.  I can’t remember the name of my teacher at that time but I will forever be grateful for her.  She calmly asked the kids to continue their lesson. She didn’t run over, she didn’t fuss, she didn’t treat me like I was the class charity case, and as I rested my head on my desk, she let me cry.  She made it clear to me and my friends that it was “okay to cry and feel the feelings I was feeling” – this is the essence of Kate’s Club.  

I understand that grieving is different for everyone and can linger after a loved one has left us. The amazing people at Kate’s Club do, too.  They provide kids and families with activities and tools to feel supported in a fun and thoughtful way; to feel “normal” in their world of grief.  They help individuals recognize the scar and that it can fade and the pain will subside.

Organizations like Kate’s Club are vital, providing kids a transformative and healthy way to live while the marks on their heart remain. 

If you would like to participate in the 2020 Mourning Glory Gala on August 28, you can click here to purchase tickets or click here to register and bid on items in the auction (bidding is open now).

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