Talk, Listen, Connect III: When Families Grieve

From Sesame Workshop: “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.

When Families Grieve will launch with the premiere of a one hour primetime 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.

Katie Couric joins Sesame Street Muppets Elmo, Rosita and Jesse, and children who have lost a parent, in planting a tree at Madison Square Park in NYC, to honor those who have passed away as part of a Sesame Workshop outreach initiative, When Families Grieve. PBS will premiere an original special, “When Families Grieve,” on April 14 at 8pm and the free outreach kit, which will also be available online at, will roll-out on April 15. (Photo credit: Sesame Workshop/Gil Vaknin)

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 (including The USO) 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.

We are proud to support the Talk, Listen, Connect series and hope you’ll watch the PBS special tonight.  And take a moment to learn more about the resources from Talk, Listen, Connect: Deployments, Homecomings, Changes and The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, which returns stateside in 2010.

Letters Back Home – Basrah Edition

Today’s Letter Back Home is a special one.  Duty Manager Robin Symes received this thank you note from a Soldier who frequently visits the USO in Basrag.  Symes wrote the following paragraphs to accompany the letter; they reflect her thoughts on a “Day in the Life of a Duty Manager in SWA.”  We love her thoughts and we love the thank you even more.

“What a day.  The AC in your room just went out and you’ve heard that temperatures will almost reach 100 degrees this afternoon.  You had to wait 30 minutes this morning for your turn in the bathroom only to get a cold shower.  The wind has been blowing for hours, the sky is dusty and you can taste dirt in your mouth as you walk to work.    You received bad news from home and there are rumors that the base will be rocketed tonight.  And then SGT B drops off a thank you note that makes you realize that for all the troubles you might have, your life is easy compared to those who have been separated from family and friends far longer than you and have been serving in far more difficult conditions.

All it takes is a “thank you” from a Soldier to remind you why you came to Iraq in the first place.  All it takes is a “thank you” from a Soldier to remind you that you have been allowed the honor of serving members of the greatest military in the world.  All it takes is a “thank you” from a Soldier to remind you that you represent the USO and all those who have donated their time and money as a “thank you” to America’s warriors.  What a day, indeed.”