- Associated Press - Saturday, December 2, 2017

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - Two siblings who are still coping with the loss of their parents are reaching out to help other kids who are grieving.

Chubbuck residents Auston Svancara, 15, and Melessa Peck, 9, and their family donated roughly 150 grief kits to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello late November.

“As Auston and Melessa have been learning to find strength and take the first steps toward hope over the loss of their parents, they have asked many questions about other children and wondered if they are alone,” said Lacy Parker, the children’s aunt and guardian. “We have had many personal conversations about how other children in the world experience the loss of a parent and Auston and Melessa wanted (to) help them.”

The grief kits are part of Sesame Workshop’s initiative “When Families Grieve.” Although the family is not affiliated with the program, Parker said they have personally used one of the kits and it has helped them to open up and talk about their feelings as a family in recent months. That’s one of the reasons why they decided to request more kits to help other local families who are grieving.

The kits contain a DVD for families, a book for children, activities and a guide for caregivers.

Auston said he wanted to donate the kits to help other kids feel better.

So did Melessa. She said there are other children like her who have lost their parents and she wanted to give them a book to read with their families or by themselves.

“The book is about a little girl who lost her dad and she learned how to do things to help her,” Melessa said.

Parker said they made the donation a few days after Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which falls on the third Thursday in November.

“We have had these kits for about three months but have been waiting for the right time to donate them, including a time when Auston and Melessa were ready,” Parker said. “What better way to acknowledge their healing then by being able to make such a meaningful donation during a time when we can also help to increase awareness about children and grieving.”

Earlier this year, Auston and Melessa’s parents tragically died within days of each other.

Shane Peck, 34, died on May 16 following a medical emergency. Family members said Lindsey Peck, 32, died soon after on May 18 from an infection that caused her body to shut down.

Sadly, it was the second time that Auston had lost a father. His biological dad also died when he was younger.

The community rallied around the children following their parents’ deaths. People donated funds to help them as they transitioned to a new life, and they sent cards and other gifts to show their support.

Parker said friends, families, businesses, schools, religious organizations and others reached out to them.

“Our whole family was so appreciative for the support we received. Words simply can’t describe the emotions our family experienced and still experience at times when we think about the loss of Lindsey and Shane,” Parker said. “The community helped us shine some light toward the hope we desperately needed to feel.”

Donating the kits to the hospital gave Auston and Melessa a chance to help other kids and pay forward some of the support they have received, Parker said.

She thinks the donation will also help Auston and Melessa as they continue to deal with their personal grief.

“My husband and I are trying to help all the children in our home to learn it’s OK to mourn and it’s still OK to love. We are helping them to discover ways to honor and cherish Lindsey and Shane,” Parker said, adding that that is especially important during the holiday season. “Auston and Melessa will always be impacted by the loss of their parents, they loved them both so much. As their family and caregivers, we hope to teach them to cope, find ways to remember, honor and create new memories.”

They hope the kits will help other grieving families to do the same - especially those with children.

“Children grieve differently than adults and they need special love and attention to help them feel supported while they grieve,” Parker said. “By making this donation, our family hopes to increase this awareness and let children know they are loved and supported during such a challenging time.”


Information from: Idaho State Journal, http://www.journalnet.com

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