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Katie Couric and The Sesame Street Muppets Help Families Cope With The Death of a Parent

Prime Time Television Special Premiering on April 14 at 8 pm ET/ PT on PBS Almost One Million Free Resource Kits to be Distributed Nationwide to Military Families & Families in the General Public Beginning April 15

New York, N.Y., April 12, 2010 - The death of a parent is one of the most challenging things a child can face, and shockingly an estimated 2.5% of children under age 18 have experienced the death of a parent (approximately 2.5 million children)* and on March 10, 2010 TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) estimated that the 5,398 U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan had left 3,779 children without a parent, while 2,669 spouses had been widowed. In response, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, is launching When Families Grieve, an outreach initiative that provides free resources in support of families with young children, in the military and the general public, coping with the death of a parent. A preview of the materials was presented today at the offices of New York Life Insurance with Katie Couric; Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop; Casey Holstein with his daughters Charlie and Lia, who were featured in the special; and Sesame Street's Muppets Elmo, Rosita and Jesse (Elmo's cousin). The initiative is presented in conjunction with the Month of the Young Child & the Month of the Military Child.

When Families Grieve will launch with the premiere of a one hour prime time television special on PBS featuring Katie Couric and the Sesame Street Muppets airing nationwide on April 14th at 8:00 PM ET/ PT (check local listings). The special, produced by Sesame Workshop, in association with Worldwide Pants Incorporated and Lookalike Productions, will present families' personal stories about coping with the death of a parent, as well as strategies that have helped these families move forward.

Immediately following the special, Sesame Workshop will begin the roll out of close to one million free multimedia kits to families and grief service providers nationwide. Through partnerships with organizations within the military and the general public that already provide services and resources to grieving families, Sesame Workshop will ensure that kits reach those who need them most. Organizational partnerships include Military Services casualty offices, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), childhood grief centers, national nonprofit aid organizations, professional associations, religious communities, foster parents, and others. All materials will also be available online at beginning April 15.

"Death and loss are a part of life, but they are very difficult for adults to discuss, much less children," said Katie Couric. "I'm honored that Sesame Street, with its long history of tackling difficult issues with sensitivity, caring and warmth asked me to be a part of this important project. I hope that it will provide families with the tools to help them cope, begin the healing process and ultimately adjust to their 'new normal' in the healthiest way possible."

"Sesame Workshop has always been at the forefront of creating resources for families with young children to help address some of life's most difficult issues." said Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop. "When Families Grieve is Sesame Workshop's contribution to all those who face the daunting challenge of helping a child cope and heal from the painful reality of a death of a loved one. We are honored to work with Katie Couric and all our supporters and especially the families who share their very personal stories so others can learn and benefit from their journeys."

The multimedia and bi-lingual (English and Spanish) When Families Grieve resource kits, created by Sesame Workshop with the guidance from an Advisory Board, were developed to try to help families with young children:

  • Reduce the levels of anxiety, sadness, and confusion that children may experience following the death of a parent;
  • Provide families with age-appropriate tools to support and comfort children, including ways to talk about death with a young child; and
  • Reassure children that they are loved and safe, and that together with their families and friends, they can learn ways of being there for one another and move forward.

When Families Grieve will consist of two customized versions of the kit- one designed to support the specific needs of military families and one designed for the general public containing:

  • A DVD featuring the Sesame Street Muppets and documentary footage of families who have experienced the death of a parent due to a variety of situations including illness, suicide, accidents, and other sudden or natural causes.
    • Print Materials to include:
    • A guide for parents and caregivers providing tips, strategies, and activities to help comfort and reassure children through difficult times;
    • A children's storybook designed to comfort children as they cope with the death of a parent;
    • A facilitator's guide with strategies for using the project's components, as well as tips and activities to give to families with children coping with grief.
    • A Web site:, providing:
    • Streaming video of When Families Grieve prime time television special and DVD video content, and all downloadable print resources.
    • A PSA for children going through the grieving process, featuring the Sesame Street Muppets.

When Families Grieve is a continuation of Sesame Workshop's award-winning Talk, Listen, Connect outreach initiative launched in 2006 that provides resources and emotional support to military families with young children, ages 2 to 8, coping with challenging transitions in their lives, such as deployments and when a parent comes home with a combat-related injury. Sesame's outreach initiatives harness the power of the Sesame Street Muppets to aid the communication between adults and children through strategies and language that are child-appropriate and useful for the whole family.

When Families Grieve is available to order for free at and through Military OneSource either by phone 1-800-342-9647 or website Military OneSource is provided by the Department of Defense for all active duty, Guard & Reserve members (regardless of activation status) and their families.

Major support for When Families Grieve has been provided by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, BAE Systems, Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation, and Walmart Foundation. Additional support has been provided by Lockheed Martin Corporation, New York Life Insurance Company, Military OneSource, New York State Office of Mental Health, McCormick Foundation, USO, Military Child Education Coalition, Joseph Drown Foundation, Bank of New York Mellon, Oshkosh Defense, and Department of Veterans Affairs - Vet Center Program.

About LOOKALIKE PRODUCTIONS - Lisa Lax & Nancy Stern

Lookalike Productions represents the diverse collaborative efforts of twin sister filmmakers Lisa Lax and Nancy Stern, whose television and film productions have earned them a combined 16 Emmy Awards. After spending fifteen years in network television producing & directing documentary films, live sporting events, entertainment specials and series, Lisa and Nancy became producing partners in 2002. Telling stories on film is Lookalike's specialty, and their first collaboration was the award-winning documentary "Emmanuel's Gift". The film highlighted the courageous efforts of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah as he fought for the rights of two million of his fellow disabled in Ghana, West Africa. "Emmanuel's Gift" sparked a call to action. In July, 2006, Ghana's Parliament passed a Disability Bill that had been ignored for decades, guaranteeing unparalleled rights for this long-overlooked community. Lisa and Nancy take great pride in producing important and meaningful projects that generate awareness and trigger social change.

About PBS:

PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans - from every walk of life - the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. Each month, PBS reaches more than 115 million people on-air and online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS' broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry's most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. PBS' premier children's TV programming and Web site,, are parents' and teachers' most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.

About Sesame Workshop:

Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization that revolutionized children's television programming with the landmark Sesame Street. The Workshop produces local Sesame Street programs, seen in over 140 countries, and other acclaimed shows to help bridge the literacy gap including The Electric Company and Pinky Dinky Doo. Beyond television, the Workshop produces content for multiple media platforms on a wide range of issues including literacy, health and military deployment. Initiatives meet specific needs to help young children and families develop critical skills, acquire healthy habits and build emotional strength to prepare them for lifelong learning. Learn more at

About Worldwide Pants Incorporated:

Worldwide Pants, Inc. (WPI) is the independent, New York City-based entertainment company that David Letterman founded in 1993. WPI creates original content for television and film, as well as for new media platforms including broadband and wireless. It currently has several comedy, animation, variety/talk, and feature projects in active development. WPI's successful network productions include "The Late Show with David Letterman;" "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson;" and the Emmy award-winning "Everybody Loves Raymond," which completed a successful nine-year run in 2005. WPI also created the critically acclaimed and Emmy-nominated "Ed," which ran for four seasons on NBC; "The Knights of Prosperity," which aired on ABC in 2006-2007; and "Welcome to New York," which aired on CBS in 2000. WPI has garnered more than 100 Emmy nominations and won 24 Emmy awards. "The Late Show" alone has received 60 Emmy nominations and won nine Emmys awards, including "Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program" in 1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002. "Everybody Loves Raymond" received 69 Emmy nominations and 15 Emmy awards in its nine seasons. WPI expanded into feature films with the 2004 production of "Strangers with Candy," which debuted at Sundance to wide critical acclaim and was distributed by THINKFilm in 2006, and "The Youngest Candidate," a feature documentary released earlier this year, that follows teens running for elected office.

*Social Security Administration (2000). Intermediate Assumptions of the 2000 Trustees Report. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration.

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Katie Couric and The Sesame Street Muppets Help Families Cope With The Death of a Parent

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