· “Honoring the Journey” took place September 1, beginning Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
· Evening included Candle Lighting Ceremony and Butterfly Release
· Susan Latta leads grief support groups
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (September 6, 2022) – The Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer began Childhood Cancer Awareness Month with their family event “Honoring the Journey,” a remembrance of life evening on Thursday, September 1. “Honoring the Journey” was a special, unique night that honored those who walked the journey of childhood cancer and have passed away.
Eighteen families, all of whom have experienced a loss of a loved one due to pediatric cancer, gathered at the Austin Hatcher Foundation’s Education Advancement Center for a special time of remembrance and honor. The night included dinner and desserts, a candle lighting ceremony, outdoor butterfly release, memorable music sung by Nel Reid and Butch Ross, a special presentation from the Foundation’s licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Susan Latta, and the unveiling of the new memorial "Honoring the Journey" wall with the lost loved ones’ names.
“We are a culture uncomfortable with death and its aftermath for the living, but those who are grieving can often find comfort among others who are on the same journey,” said Latta, who has over 35 years of experience in grief counseling. “Perhaps one of the more disheartening responses to our grief is the absence of hearing our loved one’s name. For many people, saying the name of their loved one is a gift. When their name is shared, they are remembered, the legacy of their life is honored.” After she spoke and gave insight into the reasoning of verbally speaking the name of a lost loved one, Latta went around to each individual family, where one member from each family spoke their loved one’s name into a microphone while photos and stories showed on the presentation screen. Another family member lit a candle in remembrance and honor after the name was spoken.
“It was so special to have families who have shared a similar trauma come together as a community to remember, honor and keep the memory of a child, teen or young adult lost to pediatric cancer alive,” said Austin Hatcher Foundation President and CEO Amy Jo Osborn, who lost her first-born, Austin Hatcher Osborn, to pediatric cancer in 2006. “Although these loved ones are no longer on earth, it was powerful to smile in remembrance and celebrate the memories together at ‘Honoring the Journey.’”
Following the presentation and a remembrance hymn, 80+ family members gathered with Austin Hatcher Foundation staff and a few other community and board members outside to release butterflies.
“Honoring the Journey” took place on the first night of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and began the foundation’s month-long series of shared stories of those facing pediatric cancer. Stories are currently being shared on the foundation’s social media and will be all month long at @austinhatcherfo (Instagram).
“There’s a quote that says, ‘when we lose someone, we love, we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they have left behind,” said Latta to the families at the conclusion of her speech. “You have brought an abundance of love with you tonight. Grief will be a companion throughout life. Claim this abundance of love left to you. It will always live within your heart and lighten the steps along your journey as you navigate life without someone you loved so dearly. May you find grace for yourself as well as for others as you navigate your grief.”
Latta will continue to lead grief groups for children and adults affected by pediatric cancer. On the fourth Monday of each month, there is a grief group for children age 6 to 12. Beginning on September 27, a six-session adult grief group will take place every other Tuesday night with dinner and childcare provided. Like all services at the Austin Hatcher Foundation, there is no cost to attend and participate. For more information on grief groups, visit https://www.hatcherfoundation.org/griefsupport.
The Austin Hatcher Foundation’s mission is to erase the effects of pediatric cancer for entire families by providing essential specialized intervention beginning at the time of a child’s diagnosis and continuing through survivorship of the whole family. Families of the foundation are provided with services such as Mental and Behavioral Health Therapy, Occupational Therapy, NeuroPsych Testing, Family Programs and more at absolutely no cost to them.
To learn more about the Austin Hatcher Foundation, visit www.HatcherFoundation.org today.