Posts Categorized: Family Programs

Kids Camp Attendees Treated to Mountaintop Adventure

2022 Kids Camp

Kids Camp gives grieving children a chance to “just be children.” For children who experience the loss of a primary loved one, dealing with grief can be a monumental challenge. When that loved one was a firefighter who sacrificed his/her life in the line of duty, those affected share a unique bond. Combining traditional camp fun with therapeutic benefits, Kids Camp gives them the added strength to meet that challenge together.

Fire Hero Families Gather in Rochester

Wellness Conference - Rochester, New York

The NFFF Family Programs team was joined by a terrific group of presenters and a dedicated group of local fire service members—all amidst the lovely backdrop of peaceful upstate New York.

Identity and Sense of Self in Widowhood

Identity and Sense of Self in Widowhood

In March, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation hosted a virtual support workshop featuring Michele Neff Hernandez, who was recently named one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2021. This workshop focused on how the death of a spouse or partner not only turns our world upside down, but it also re-shapes us as individuals. One of the most important elements of grief recovery is coming to know, appreciate, and respect the new self.

Gratitude Tour: From Sea to Shining Sea

Grief in Progress​

Juliann Ashcraft and her husband Andrew were twenty-somethings with four young children when he died in the line of duty in Prescott, Arizona on June 30, 2013. In fact, he was one of 19 wildland firefighters who died in the line of duty that day, with just one member of the crew surviving. Overwhelmed with gratitude for the strangers who sent letters and cards and offered support, Ashcraft converted a 40-foot Greyhound bus into a home on wheels and hit the road with her kids on a gratitude tour that would take them across the United States. Juliann wrote about the tour on a blog, and in this episode she talks about how she’s always used her writing to process her thoughts and feelings. She also describes how she recently added the word “gift” to her personal definition of the word “grief”—for without her experience of losing Andrew, she would not be who she is today.

Following in the Footsteps of Service

Grief in Progress​

Fire Hero family members often continue their loved one’s commitment to service. This episode focuses on two daughters of fallen firefighters who both lost their dads to heart attacks in the line of duty—in separate incidents, two years and hundreds of miles apart. Liza Aunkst ’s father, Mike, was a volunteer firefighter in Benedict, Nebraska; Rachel Prouty’s dad was fire chief in Brownsville, NJ. But the two young women became friends at NFFF’s Young Adult Retreat, an annual program that helps young people gain skills to deal with grief and build support systems as they move forward into full independence. Today, the young women have more than friendship and a similar story in common. Looking toward meaningful careers, both have chosen social work as their field. Hear them share their experiences of growing up amidst a dedication to service, finding connections to help face the future—and how legacy has played a role in each of their lives.

Paying It Forward to Other Fire Hero Families

Grief in Progress​

Carol Jones had sought a challenging career that would fulfill her desire to help others, make a difference in her community, and to be a part of something extraordinary. She found that path when she followed in her own father’s footsteps to become a career firefighter in Fort Worth, Texas. Over a decade later, she married Fire Chief Louis Jones of Roswell, New Mexico—only to lose him four years later in a tragic event when he was shot and killed in the line of duty. After NFFF honored her husband during National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, Carol decided to “pay it forward” by escorting other families during the annual event that honors the fallen, which she does continue each year. She also provides peer support and promotes NFFF’s goals at various events. After tragedy, Carol has found great satisfaction assisting others in their time of need.

Finding Meaning via “Found Families”

Grief in Progress​

Ryan Woitalewicz was just four years old when he lost his dad Kenny, a volunteer firefighter in Nebraska. When Ryan attended his first NFFF Kids Camp for children ages 7-17, Illinois Fire Chief Chad Hoefle was assigned as his Big Buddy—a mentorship match that has stood the test of time. Over the years, Ryan and Chad returned to camp together until Ryan reached age 18. And the “found family” they created continues, as the two celebrate milestone events such as Ryan completing his education and becoming a teacher. They remain in close contact and enjoy any opportunity to talk about Ryan’s father and finding meaning in his loss.