Thank You, Volunteers!


“Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

– Mother Teresa

National Volunteer Month in the United States takes place in the month of April.  This month is dedicated to honoring all of the volunteers in our communities. 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a volunteer is a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses to undertake a service.

I would like to thank my mother who, at a young age, introduced me to volunteer work. Thanks, Mom for being an inspiration to me! She taught at a bible school camp, bringing me along to assist in the lessons. To this day, my mom has continued volunteer work through her parts in various plays with the Hollow Tree Players in a small town called Ligonier.  All of the money raised for each play is donated to a local family or organization in need.  


(My mom, in the red dress, performing on stage.)

I have discussions with my children about small ways they can volunteer at school and in our community.  How can kids help out at school to create a kind environment conducive to learning?

Possible ways include to reach out to a child playing alone at recess, say “hello” to another classmate who looks sad, or show kindness to a new student.  My hope is that my daughter and son will show empathy towards others throughout their lives. The empathy seed is planted at a young age by the caregivers.  By modeling and giving your child opportunities to help others, the seed will continue to grow. 

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.  It’s a learned skill that begins developing in infancy through the way caregivers interact with the baby.

Thank-you to all of the volunteers who dedicate their hearts to helping others! 

Around 13 years ago, I learned about Safe Harbor in while attending a school counselor’s meeting.  I became a trained volunteer in the summer of 2004.  A special thanks to the volunteers at the Safe Harbor Bereavement Center in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania who facilitate support groups with children, teens, and adults during the school year.  Camp Charlie, a week-long camp in June, is also made possible by volunteers.  (Coordinated by a wonderful staff!)


(Shari, Richard, Joni, and Jackie in the photo after our group this week. The photo is missing Maria. We facilitate a bereavement support group for children ages 10 to 11 years-old.)


How will you make a difference?

Thank you for taking the time to read my post!




Joni Patras is a previous elementary school counselor with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling, volunteer for 13 years with the Safe Harbor Bereavement Center in Pennsylvania, picture book writer, SCBWI Member, Zumba & kickboxing lover, and a mother of two children/ one fur baby.


Grief Support for Children- Part 1

“When we talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.  The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

-Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers)-


Night Lights our 8-9 year old support group created last year.


What support is available for children who are grieving a death of a loved one? 

If your child needs immediate support, begin with the school counselor.  The school counselor will have resources; such as, picture books about dealing with loss.  The school counselor can also inform you about support groups/camps in the area.

Support Groups:

Children are often nervous at first about participating in a support group.  I have volunteered for 11 years at a bereavement center.  After the first group session, children always want to return a second time.  A child usually participates for 2 years in our groups.  We call it “rocking out” when it’s time for a child to leave the group.  There’s a special ceremony on their last night- we have a few rocking out at the end of May.  (They are sad to leave, but are definitely ready.)

Support groups are beneficial for several reasons.  Children learn- “I’m not the only one going through this.”  It’s a safe place for kids to discuss their feelings. 



At Safe Harbor, we have a music therapist and an art therapist who visit groups.  There’s several rooms that provide a warm and comfortable environment for grieving children, teens, young adults and their families. 

Every group session runs the same way- an opening circle, activity/play time, and closing.  The groups meet every other week during the school year.  Then, Safe Harbor offers a week-long camp in June.  This past winter, they offered a special weekend called the “Harboring Hope Project.”  It was a music and art experience for kids/teens.  We have a Movie Premier in May of the activities that took place.  I am really looking forward to the showing! 


 Music Room

A recording space filled with instruments, drums, and equipment to foster expression of feelings through music and rhythm.


Volcano Room

The Volcano room has cushioned walls/floors and punching bags.  This room creates a place where children can express their anger, rage, and sadness- or just have fun within a protected setting.


Art Room

A spacious and well supplied art room is filled with materials which encourage participants to express their emotions and creativity.


 To find grief support and services in your area, check out the following websites:

  • The National Alliance for Grieving Children (NAGC)

The NAGC provides a network for nationwide communication between hundreds of professionals & volunteers who want to share ideas, information, and resources with each other to better support the grieving children and families they serve in their own communities.  Click on a state to find grief support in your local area:

  • The Dougy Center, The National Center for Grieving Children & Families

The Dougy Center provides a safe place for children, teens, young adults and their families who are grieving a death to share their experiences.  They offer peer support groups, education, and training.  Check out their website below to search 5oo listings of grief centers that provide support and services:

Summer Camps:

There are national and local summer camps offered across the United States.

  • Camp Erin, created and funded by The Moyer Foundation

    Camp Erin is the largest nationwide network of free bereavement camps for children and teens ages 6-17 who have experienced the death of someone close to them.  There are nearly 48 camp locations nationwide.  If you are interested in a Camp Erin summer camp, check out their website below for a camp in your area:

Send me a message if you have any questions about bereavement groups for kids/teens.


Memory place mats for Thanksgiving.


Lanterns to remember loved ones.

If you are new to my website, there’s an updated RESOURCE LIST that contains several articles on helping children/teens with grief.

 “Be a RAINBOW in someone else’s CLOUD.”

-Maya Angelou

Good night, sleep tight! Create a night-light!

“Goodnight kittens and goodnight mittens

Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks

Goodnight little house and goodnight mouse

Goodnight comb and goodnight brush

Goodnight nobody/ Goodnight mush

And Goodnight to the old lady whispering “hush”

Goodnight stars/ Goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere”

Excerpt from Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, 1947

I read this book to my children every night when they were babies and toddlers.  It was part of their bedtime ritual that soothed them before going to sleep.  The book was a present after the birth of my daughter.  Now that they are older, bedtime can be more difficult.  Sometimes I laugh at the craziness!   Regarding the difficulty, I’m not just talking about wanting to stay up later or needing “one more” drink of water.  I am talking about fears.  Fears of the dark and monsters that hide under the bed.  Especially for my five-year-old.  My son will ask me before going to sleep, “Mommy, are zombies real?”

I think that question originated from the zombies in Minecraft.  (His new favorite game.)  My son needs to have his Star Wars Light Saber night-light on before saying good-night.  He also has stars that project onto the ceiling.  (Something I wish they had when I was little.)   I remember having fears at his age, but I had a 10 pound dog that slept with me very single night.  Although she was the tiniest dog, I believed Sam would protect me.  She had a huge personality!  My younger sister, Melissa, also had fears as a child.  My mom and dad would put Melissa in my bed after she would go into their room during the middle of the night.  They were sneaky!

Fears are common at this age, especially with children who are grieving.  We addressed this topic in our bereavement support group by creating pillow cases in October.  We needed to have another activity on this topic.  Shari Glaskin, a wonderful facilitator in our group, created a fun activity to cope with this issue.  Our group constructed night-lights at our last meeting and it was a huge success!

We created the night-lights using mason jars with lids.  Try to find jars that have a smooth glass.  For the lights, we used battery operated tea lights.  You can find jars and tea lights at a craft store or Target.  We also used foam stickers, window markers, and sharpies.  In my opinion, the window markers were on the messy side.  However, they were washable and rinsed off easily on their hands.  The sharpies are permanent, so be careful about getting it on your clothes and hands.

After they decorated the jar, we used a small piece of Crayola modeling clay to create a holder for the tea light.  The holder will be placed on the bottom of the jar.  We made sure the tea holder fit, took the tea light out, and allowed the clay to dry.  Before they left to go home, they placed the tea lights back in their jars.  The clay does not take long to dry.

The children were so excited about their new night-lights and they were easy to make.  This would be a simple project to complete at home.  I plan on having my own kids make these on a day off from school.

Have fun making your night lights.  I promise they will be excited about going to sleep!  Please e-mail a picture of your finished night-light.  I would LOVE to post them on my website and Facebook page.  My e-mail is listed below the pictures.


E-mail pictures to