VIEWPOINT: A Legacy of Volunteering - 27 East

VIEWPOINT: A Legacy of Volunteering

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Viewpoint

  • Publication: East Hampton Press
  • Published on: Apr 30, 2023

By Shari Adler

Springtime in the Hamptons can be equated to the calm before the storm, when the towns and villages appear serene and lovely. It is just weeks and days before Memorial Day brings with it an onslaught of crowds turning the bucolic into bustle and the serenity into frenzy.

If your residence is out east, you are quite familiar with this seasonal change. You know that your favorite beverage from Golden Pear, easily accessible September through May, is about to require waiting in a line that will soon reach the sidewalk, and maybe even longer. Such things we accept since, by the way, there are three other seasons of tranquility.

Summer brings with it many things besides crowded sidewalks and stores. We have spectacular sun, sparkling oceans, warm breezes and a deluge of profitable businesses. The throngs of lines mean good things to the proprietors.

Something else runs at maximum throttle each summer in the Hamptons: The benefit season is in full bloom. Nonprofits host many of their gala events from Memorial Day to Labor Day to optimize their audience that supports their worthy endeavors. Patrons are happy to participate while wearing their best summer garb, only enhancing the beautiful nature of wildflowers and vineyards that line our main thoroughfare.

On May 3, just ahead of summer, at the Metropolitan Club in New York City, there will be a lovely sitdown luncheon. This annual event, called the Valentine Salon, the 23rd of its kind, serves to raise funds to send children, ages 4 to 17, who have lost a loved one, to a one-week summer day camp that offers a variety of modalities for bereavement therapy. There are therapies in art, music, play, and group. The campgrounds are located in Center Moriches, a stone’s throw from Westhampton. The camp is offered completely tuition-free.

It is over 20 years now that this little camp has been near and dear to my heart. All of us have suffered some kind of loss. We all grieve and experience loss differently. Those of us who are fortunate have lost someone in the natural cycle of life when we expect loss to occur. Some of us have not, and the loss is tragic and infinitely more challenging.

Still, the more we are supported by loved ones, community and grief therapy, the better prepared we are to have the skills necessary to cope.

My attempt at coping with loss is by absorbing the legacy of the deceased person. I had an aunt who returned to graduate school after she raised her kids. So did I. I had a grandmother who baked nonsugary desserts, sewed clothing and loved languages. So do I.

I had another grandmother whose life was so short, we never met. Her story is told that, by age 40, the year she perished, she had contributed so much to her community that a girls’ youth group from her hometown was named in her honor.

My father started volunteering as a teen; he stopped the last day of his life, at age 82, when he went to a meeting in the morning of the afternoon he passed away. I, too, believe in volunteerism.

This spring, East End Hospice will sustain the memory of my father and grandmother by recognizing my volunteerism with Camp Good Grief. Many people throughout the years have asked me, “Why Camp Good Grief? What draws you to this ‘Little Engine That Could’ for two decades?”

I thought what attracted me to Camp Good Grief was simple and obvious, such as helping the children, reliving camp as an adult, being enveloped in the camaraderie of visiting and serving lunch at camp with like-minded volunteers every summer, or simply loving the values of camp. Then, finally, I realized my reasons for returning to camp year after year were certainly all of the above, but they also went much deeper.

The greater rationale is found in the narrative of a young girl, who at her age of 5, lost her father at his age of 41. The year was 1938. He left behind a widow with three dependent daughters. Having had neither social services nor financial back-up, this widow had to work an inordinate number of hours just to make ends meet to sustain her home and provide sustenance — simply put, food — for her three daughters.

Certainly, nothing like Camp Good Grief existed in 1938. This young child was watched by her adolescent sisters. Fortunately, the grandparents lived nearby, providing some extended family. Primarily, however, there was neither mental health nor community gathering to support the young girl or her older sisters. Somehow, the older sisters seemed to be fare better, probably because they had their father for considerably longer. The little girl, however, not so much.

This young child did manage to grow up and marry my father. She raised a family with him, my sister, and me. Still, her entire life was plagued by challenges in solidifying relationships as well as experiencing a reticence to trust others.

Just recently, my mother celebrated her 90th birthday. She was celebrated by each and every family member. No one was either ill or away on a business trip. Everyone was present. In our own maturity, we have come to realize her pain. We have even come to resolve ourselves as sometimes being the recipient of that pain, some of us much more than others.

Consequently, my reason for staying involved with Camp Good Grief runs deep. I want that no child who has lost a loved one, and a piece of their heart, to ever feel unsupported or unloved. Each and every child who attends Camp Good Grief is surrounded by care and therapy; they are given tools to help them cope with their loss.

I am forever a firsthand witness to the devastation that loss can bring to a child. The fallout, without the proper therapeutic support and counseling, is both lifelong and multi-generational.

Therefore, on May 3, as we get ready to welcome summer, and we gather in our pretty garb at the Metropolitan Club, we will raise funds such that no family is ever prevented from connecting their child to the tuition-free Camp Good Grief due to financial concerns.

The Good Heart Honoree, Cara Belvin, the founder of “empowerHER” will be the main honoree and speaker. I will accept the Valentine Salon Image Award. In doing so, I pay homage to my father and grandmother. I will feel satisfied to know that so many children will be supported and helped in a way that my mother never was.

If you are also interested in helping these children, please call East End Hospice at 631-288-7080, or contact eehcampgoodgrief.org, or ddoyle@eeh.org.

Shari Adler is a Southampton resident.

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