Booz Allen Associate Maureen Paparella (left) and her niece Kerry Frech volunteer at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp
When Maureen Paparella’s husband died from cancer in 1996, she worried about how the loss might change her kids- Colleen, 11, and Kevin, 6 - forever. Colleen and Kevin attended tragedy assistance groups where they got to meet other kids who were grieving the loss of a parent, and the experience proved invaluable. So this May, 16 years after her own family tragedy, Booz Allen Hamilton Associate Maureen Paparella volunteered at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp. The youngsters participating in the camp all had something in common with Colleen and Kevin. These kids were dealing with the loss of a loved one, too—for many of them, a parent.
TAPS is a national nonprofit organization that provides free emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars, case work assistance and a phone helpline for anyone who has been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. It was founded in 1994 by a group of surviving families following the deaths of their loved ones in a military plane crash in Alaska in 1992. TAPS has helped more than 35,000 survivors and caregivers since its founding.
Since 2010, Booz Allen has participated in the annual TAPS National Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp and has also joined with TAPS at other events from a Nationals baseball game to the Marine Corps Marathon. At this year’s Good Grief Camp Kids’ Bash on Saturday, May 26, more than 500 kids of all ages were welcomed to the D.C. Armory, where they could lighten their loads and enjoy an evening of bounce houses, laser tag, food and games with their newfound friends and service member mentors.
“One of the great things about TAPS is they allow the volunteers to meet and talk to the survivor families. In meeting these children, we saw first-hand that they are kind, fun-loving and happy, and I credit that to the incredible grief counseling work that TAPS does,” said John Miller, coordinator of Booz Allen’s TAPS efforts and senior consultant at the firm. “It was an honor to work with the other volunteers to help host an enjoyable party for kids and young adults who so deeply deserve it.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of families, service men and women, and national leaders gathered in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to honor the sacrifice of military families. TAPS flew in children, teens and adults from across the country to attend the counseling workshops and other holiday weekend events in Arlington, VA and Washington, D.C.
Looking around the nation’s Capital this Memorial Day, it was easy to see that these grieving families were not alone, and not unappreciated. The TAPS festivities led off with personal addresses from Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Vice President Joe Biden, who talked with families about the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident in December of 1972.
After a day of sharing experiences, meeting other kids like themselves, and getting to know their mentors—service men and women who volunteered to buddy up with the kids in town for TAPS—the kids enjoyed festivities from outdoor sports to gaming to face painting. “When they come to this they can realize for the first time, ‘There are kids like me, and I can laugh and move on,’” says Paparella.
A quick appraisal of the hundreds of kids enjoying the party, joined by their service member mentors, impressed upon Booz Allen volunteers the magnitude of sacrifice endured by families from all over the country, connected to all branches of service.
Paparella noted as she looked around the Armory, jam-packed with laughing, running kids covered in facepaint and adorned with buttons and tags honoring their loved ones, that “There’s a death for each one, but they’re all normal kids."
Please consider supporting TAPS by visiting their Website: http://www.taps.org.