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New York Life Foundation Grants $3,000,000 To Comfort Zone Camp

Grant Helps Expand Services For Grieving Children, An Underserved Need

NEW YORK, N.Y., JUNE 25, 2008 – The New York Life Foundation and Comfort Zone Camp (CZC) announced that CZC was awarded a three year $3,000,000 grant from the New York Life Foundation to extend the reach of Comfort Zone’s services and help raise the issue of grieving children to a national concern. The grant will help CZC expand to five regional sites with a total of 38 camps by the end of 2010, serving more than 2,400 children age 7-18, each year.

The death of a loved one is one of the most stressful events a child can face and unfortunately it is not a rare occurrence. One in seven children experiences the loss of a parent or sibling or close relative by the age of 10.1

Experts have shown that bereaved children, without the benefit of a healthy support system, are at risk. In fact, one child in five who have experienced the death of a parent is likely to develop psychiatric disorders.2 In the year following bereavement, children commonly display grief and distress; and emotional and behavior difficulties are often reported.3 In addition, studies show that youth who experience the sudden death of a parent report significantly more depressive, anxious, and disruptive behaviors than their non-bereaved peers.4

“The support from the New York Life Foundation will allow our organization to increase awareness, education and services to youth, their families and communities affected by loss. The need for these resources is great and the impact is often life-changing,” said Lynne Hughes, founder and chief executive officer of Comfort Zone Camp. “This partnership of New York Life and Comfort Zone Camp will allow for more grieving children across the country to get back to being kids again while they begin the healing process.”

“Comfort Zone Camp is making a very real difference in the lives of children and families from all economic and cultural backgrounds affected by a loss. We are proud to help Comfort Zone Camp grow to serve more kids who are grieving and to be a national voice for this issue,” said Chris Park, president, New York Life Foundation.

“Our agents serve as extended family members in difficult times and have seen first-hand how the loss of a parent or caregiver can affect the lives of those left behind, especially the children,” said Chris Blunt, senior vice president and chief operating officer for New York Life’s Life & Annuity Department. “This partnership with Comfort Zone Camp will provide our agents with information and resources for families when they need it most.”

The partnership between CZC and New York Life Foundation began last year with a $25,000 planning grant, which supported research showing there is little public awareness of the magnitude of the problem; society does not know how to support grieving children; and, their families and communities have either no support services, or the services they do have are fragmented and executed with varying levels of competence.

Comfort Zone currently offers children ten weekend camps and one week-long camp in Virginia, three weekend camps in northern New Jersey, and one in southern California. Currently each camp serves approximately 60 children, ages 7-18. These children come from a variety of ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. More than one-third of the children are minority

The Camps combine grief counseling with traditional camp activities. Each camp ends with a memorial service with the camper’s surviving parent/guardian in attendance. The children may sing a song, read a poem, or perform a dance with their cabin mates in honor of their loved ones. Another unique aspect of Comfort Zone Camp is the one-to-one pairing of children (“little buddies”) to adults (“big buddies”).

Many children come to camp “attention-starved,” as surviving parents or guardians are understandably preoccupied with their own grief. The big buddies serve as the campers’ anchors, mentors and friends. “Bigs” are screened and trained in grief counseling techniques and carefully matched with campers of the same gender who share the same interests.

The little and big buddies are divided based on the camper’s age into smaller groups called “healing circlesSM.” These are 90-minute support groups held at different times during the camp, led by volunteer licensed grief therapists who assist children in identifying the emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. The Healing Circles are designed to help the children identify and express emotions and give them coping tools to help them once they leave camp.

In addition to the big buddies, volunteer roles include therapists, arts and crafts helpers, musicians, camp nurses, recreational assistants, and youth mentors. Camps are staffed by about 90 trained and screened volunteers. Currently CZC has more than 1,000 volunteer positions, adding up to more than 60,000 volunteer hours per year.

Comfort Zone Camp will expand national resources to bereaved children in two interrelated initiatives: expansion of sites and expansion of education and advocacy services. The expansion plan calls for bereavement camps to reach more children in the current sites in Virginia, New York/New Jersey, and southern California, and to expand to include sites in Boston, and a fifth region to be determined by CZC and New York Life. These central locations allow for easier access to camp for kids from all over the country.

The second initiative focuses on increasing public access and understanding through expanded education and advocacy. Because most of the nearly 2.5 million grieving children in the United States will not be able to attend a Comfort Zone Camp in person, CZC will also develop online support groups, blogs, e-camps, and other resources that are accessible from any place, at any time to reach these children and their caregivers.

About Comfort Zone Camps
The mission of CZC is to “offer bereaved children the opportunity to remember their loved ones in a safe and healing camp environment.” Since its founding, CZC has held 71 camps and served more than 3,300 children. To date, campers have come to camps from 37 states and Canada. Comfort Zone has become the largest bereavement camp program in the country. Please visit the organization’s Website at

About The New York Life Foundation
The New York Life Foundation is the major vehicle through which New York Life Insurance Company channels contributions to national and local nonprofit organizations. Through its Nurturing the Children initiative, the Foundation supports organizations, programs and services that target young people, particularly in the areas of mentoring, safe places to learn and grow, and educational enhancement opportunities. Since 1979, the New York Life Foundation has donated more than $100 million to national and local nonprofit organizations. Please visit the Foundation’s Web site at

1The Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas, 2005 (accessed June 17, 2008) available from
2Dowdney, Linda. (2000). Annotation: Childhood Bereavement Following Parental Death. The Journal of Child Psychology and Allied Disciplines, 41, pp 819-830
4Thompson, M.P., Kaslow, N.J., Kingree, J.B., King, M., Bryant, L., & Rey, M. (1998). Psychological symptomatology following parental death in predominately minority sample of children and adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27(4), 434-441

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New York Life Foundation Grants $3,000,000 To Comfort Zone Camp

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