Carolyn Kinzel, founder of the Eden Prairie-based, nonprofit Brighter Days Grief Center, said the center will acquire the Youth Grief Services program of Fairview Health effective today, Dec. 10.
Youth Grief Services (YGS) has been operating for over 20 years, offering a range of free youth and adult grief support and education as well as Camp Erin, a summer camp for grieving kids. Brighter Days will also hire three full-time employees in January to maintain the continuity, value, and relationships the hospital’s Youth Grief Service program served.
In almost four years of service, Brighter Days Grief Center has served more than 2,700 grieving families in Minnesota. Fairview’s YGS annually served hundreds of families with children ages 4-17. Brighter Days will keep the elements YGS excelled in, such as the six-week grief support series and youth grief camps. Additionally, Brighter Days will enhance the offerings by adding free grief and trauma support, monthly groups, peer-based activities and events, and support for anticipatory grief. Brighter Days also plans to add a young-adult program to provide the much-needed support for college students. Brighter Days is the only family-focused grief center serving the Minnesota that offers free and holistic grief support resources and services, including financial assistance, for youth and adults facing the terminal diagnosis or death of a family member.
The addition of a youth and young-adult program for the grief center goes back to the heart of the nonprofit’s mission of providing holistic support for grieving families. “Every family member deserves unique support, in a manner that is most comfortable for them, so they can focus on their own grief rather than carrying everyone else’s,” said Kinzel.
Drawing on her own personal experience, Kinzel added, “It is extremely overwhelming and painful to not know how to support your grieving child. We want grieving individuals, especially children, to have choices; it isn’t only about grief counseling anymore. It’s about making connections to other kids, creating new memories and being surrounded by a community that truly understands.”
Kinzel also remarked that her team is working closely with the YGS staff on a smooth transition. “We are thrilled to have their compassionate hearts and years of expertise join our team. We all believe that children deserve the best grief supports possible … camps, activities, counseling, groups, and special events all created with their age, comfort, and care in mind.”
Even through the COVID 19 pandemic, Brighter Days has pivoted to a fully virtual model and rolled out 25 closed Facebook groups and private Zoom groups to provide an engaged virtual community for those in need. They intend to resume in-person support this spring when they move into a larger facility that will provide the additional space to accommodate their recent expansion in staff and programming.
Brighter Days Grief Center also has plans to start a capital campaign in 2021, keeping pace with their strategic plan.
“Our ultimate goal has always been to build a family-focused grief center that provides everything that we already do for children and families and blend it with education, events, and community trainings,” noted Kinzel. The center brought in an architectural firm to design the floor plan and video and planned to unveil their vision at their year-end fundraising gala. The gala has since been cancelled due to COVID-19 and they will instead do a virtual unveiling later this month.
“We cannot wait to share it publicly as a kick-off to our capital campaign,” Kinzel said. “Grieving children and families deserve a compassionate place to land, created especially for them, that provides hope while illuminating a tangible path forward. Now, we have a team of experienced grief professionals joining us that share our vision which ultimately brings us one step closer to seeing it come to life.”