Donation supports art program for bereaved children

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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A donation has given a boost to Sutter Auburn Faith Hospice’s Children’s Bereavement Art Group program. David McHugh, New York Life Insurance Company representative in Auburn, presented the $10,000 check on Jan. 5. The program, free to children ages 4 to 17 who’ve suffered a family loss, depends on donations, Sutter spokeswoman Robin Montgomery said. It is facilitated by an art therapist with an extensive background in childhood grief, according to a press release. McHugh, an insurance agent and financial adviser, said the donation is from the company’s Community Impact Grant program, selected through a competitive process that accepts proposals twice a year. “Agents around the country will apply for grants based on local charities we believe in,” he said. “This cycle, there were 29 grants around the country.” The amounts ranged from $5,000 to $25,000. For McHugh, obtaining the grant for the Auburn program has a lot of personal meaning. “It kind of started in 2006 when we lost our nephew,” he said. “Watching his two little brothers having to deal with that was difficult on the family.” That prompted discussions with Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital Foundation about things to do, which led to the subsequent grant application. The New York Life Foundation funds a lot of community programs and children’s bereavement is very high on the list, he said. McHugh made the presentation at the final session —family night — of the most recent children’s bereavement art group. “I stayed throughout,” McHugh said. “Just sitting there watching those children and seeing the art they’ve created and what it meant to them really solidified what a fantastic program it is for our company to support. It just touched my heart. It was an amazing event for me and I’m glad we were able to support (the children).” It also touches Anne Lyons, manager of the Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, who has attended the “graduation” several times during the past nine years. “It’s really a beautiful ceremony,” she said. “When children start telling you why they put this here or that there, it’s pretty meaningful.” The donation is very significant, she said. “… It will help defray cost of the program,” she explained. “We provide everything free. That includes the art supplies and the therapist salaries.” It’s the largest single donation for CBAG in Auburn. The community is very supportive of the program, with recent donations also coming from the Caring Hearts Society and the Lions Club, she said. “It will go to good use, believe me,” Lyons said. At the Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital Foundation, Executive Director Mindy Danovaro said she is ecstatic over the New York Life Foundation donation. “It’s going to help us expand our services to more children and will enable us to promote the program so more children can avail themselves of the services,” she said. … It is an important program for us.” Recently a reunion camp was added. “Children who had been through the program reconnected with others who’d been on the same journey,” Danovaro said. “It was really wonderful because they could talk to others and see if they were having the same feelings … if they are in the same space and how the healing process is going.” The process really provides a communication outlet. “Four-year-olds may not have the words to express their feelings, but they can use art to do that,” she explained. “Teens sometimes don’t want to express their feelings, so they can do that through art.” Therapist Dee Turner has worked with CBAG for almost 11 years and has been associated with the Auburn program since 2006. The children are divided into age groups — 4 to 8, 9 to 12 and 13 to 17. The maximum number of participants in each class is 10. There are 10 sessions, held every other week. “We work with clay, with fabric — making puppets, watercolor and markers,” she said. The children start with markers. Subsequent sessions move on to watercolor and clay, which access feelings more because they are less controllable, Turner said. “Most of the kids do extremely well,” she said. “… After each session I do progress notes on each child and how they are expressing themselves verbally and through artwork. Then I send out a summary letter to each parent to give them a brief overview of what has gone on with each group and if the child needs more help.” McHugh, who is affiliated with New York Life’s general office in Roseville, has worked in Auburn for 11 years. He is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and a Leadership Auburn graduate. Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@