Acceptance Speech from Shaun Sharp, recipient of COPE Sibling Recognition Award at COPE Golf Outing May 21, 2018
Fran was a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. She will forever be missed by all who had the privilege to know her. Fran’s bright smile lit up every room she entered as well as the lives of all whom she touched. She is remembered as a compassionate, independent, confident and smart woman who had an incredible passion for life. I am grateful for being a part of the special gift that was her life for 31 years.
It was pouring rain that evening, I got caught in traffic during my long commute home so I arrived a little late. Sharing is not something I care much for. So imagine my angst when I was the only one there that evening. Where am I and what am I doing? The shock had worn off but the why that forms in our hearts and all but bursts from our lips was and remains unanswered. My brother was going to group, my parents were going to group so I figured why not me. So many things we were now doing that we weren’t before that tragic Friday the 13th nine years ago this coming November. Now that night may not have worked out and I didn’t return the next month but eventually I found my way back for what were years and dozens of sessions to come. While it was so sad to see new members both come and go, I’d like to thank them all for the courage to show up. And to Tracey and Amy, thank you for your care and guidance.
Toward the end of 2011, I met Ann and Amy up in Westchester to be interviewed for a Big Buddy spot for the inaugural year of Camp Erin NYC to be held at the end of August 2012. I had two little girls at the time. Fran had left behind two tiny little boys. So, I thought it was the least I could do. It just made sense. I put my name in the hat for the 6-9 year old little boys. I have now shared a bunk with these incredible young beings for six years in a row and look forward to Camp again this summer. I am wowed every time at the laughing, crying and sharing of these boys. I am no longer surprised, however, by the misbehaving. This weekend each and every year is physically and emotionally exhausting, and I’m not talking about the kids. Sleeping on those mini twin beds in the bunk in 40 degrees probably doesn’t do much in the way of helping but I still come back for more.
At the end of last season, Ann asked why. She sent an email to all of the bunk buddies, saying the following: “If you would, and is applicable, please write in one sentence – – why you chose to return to Camp Erin NYC or how the experience has impacted or changed you.” I didn’t answer that email but will give it a go now.
There is a lot in common with Group. I get to be a part of someone else’s healing journey; while there is no end it feels good to move it forward both for myself, a sibling or a child. Press pause. For two hours or 48 I get to focus on one thing only. Be amazed. At the outpouring of love, support and commitment of so many. Pay my respects. Be there for someone else. And have fun.
I am not the only Camp Erin volunteer and am not the only Camp Erin volunteer in this room. I don’t deserve this recognition any more than they do. This is not why I do it, this is not something I ever expected to be acknowledged for. I was in disbelief when I received the email from Lilly and am grateful for the recognition. So thank you and I’d also like thank all present, past and future Camp Erin volunteers, Cope bowlers, walkers and golfers.
Today was a special day. Thank you to my friends and family for being here to share it. And thank you to everyone that donated to my daughter Cailey’s fundraising campaign. I’m proud of her for supporting Camp Erin and kids just like her cousins for her mitzvah project.
Acceptance Speech from Sandra R. Wolkoff, Ph.D., LCSW-R, recipient of COPE Parent Recognition Award and COPE Professional Service Award at COPE Golf Outing May 21, 2018
I want to thank Lilly and the Board of Directors for this honor.
Honestly, I wish I had never heard of COPE. I wish I never had to call my children and tell them their brother was killed. I wish I could stop hearing the police banging on my door.
I wish there weren’t so many grieving parents, brothers and sisters, families and friends. I wish things were different.
My friend, Sherry Radowitz, also now a Board member, first told me about COPE and its services. We have known each other for 40 years. Our boys knew each other; they went to Hebrew school together and SUNY Albany years later. They died 13 months apart.
Seven years ago, when Lilly asked me to be a support group facilitator, I cried and said I couldn’t. I don’t know what impulse pushed out the words that had me offer to start a writing group.
I would like to think it was my grief leading me forward. I knew I wrote compulsively when I couldn’t sleep and those words became the snapshots of my life. Rereading them helped. Maybe if the words were outside of me, on the paper, I would be able to breathe.
I am grateful to all the mothers in the group who, in spite of feeling we were drowning, of dreading the dawning of the next day and terror of the night, knew that a new haircut, shared tears and the feelings contained in “three words, three sentences, or three paragraphs”, the group’s guideline, would never go unnoticed.
Some of the words they created when describing their grief included: love, tears, faith, sadness, heartbroken, connection, searching, yearning, memories, rage, sad, shock, resentment, wishing for strength; and perhaps my favorite: making meaning, making good.
To the group, thank you for embracing the truth that laughter doesn’t erase mourning, but it helps; that rage about loss is just there and exhausting, and that it is always better to wear make-up.
Thank you to my family and dear friends who came tonight. Thanks to those who wanted to be here but couldn’t, and to those who supported COPE tonight because I badgered them. And a special thank you to those who still carry Steven in their hearts, sharing in the pain of losing him and celebrating the joys that have blossomed in our family in the years since.
I am so incredibly grateful to have two happy, amazing children, my daughter Jessica and my son, Matt, who have their own families and love in their lives.
I have learned that gratitude can live alongside grief.
And for those of us who are mourning, who will always mourn, I am grateful that there is a COPE Foundation. The families of COPE know that our loss has led us to a new life: a grief life that has wrapped itself around our hearts and transformed us, vaulting us into a new world. We feel awful for every family that has suffered and joined us in a journey that sometimes feels more like an imitation of life than the real one we thought we would have. In spite of our sorrow for others, we are also grateful to not be alone.
For those who witness grief from a distance, don’t be afraid to reach out to a bereaved friend. Grief is isolating, but not contagious, and most of us are looking for an excuse to connect, or go for a walk, or share the hope in our new dreams and the warmth of our memories.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for kids—safer streets, safer schools, more services to help families. It took eight years of legal action but our family was able to make changes in laws and have a stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway redesigned. Maybe no one else will die there.
So, as a wise mother said, make meaning, make good. And don’t be afraid to write just one more check for COPE before you leave tonight. Thank you.
COPE Foundation & Camp Erin NYC – Recipient of the 2014 Roger E. Joseph Prize.
Lilly Julien (center) with the Joseph family and Rabbi Aaron Panken (left) and Chairman Irwin Engelman (right)
The Joseph Prize recipients have been recognized for eradicating racial prejudice and religious discrimination; commemorating the Holocaust; demonstrating exceptional the altruism as righteous rescuers; promoting peace in the Middle East; combatting genocide; supporting the victims of trauma; ending hunger; and advancing the cause of human rights and social responsibility. It is our privilege to present the 2014 Joseph Prize to COPE-Camp Erin NYC and Lilly Julien, President and Founder of The COPE Foundation. This remarkable organization is a lifeline to children and families struggling with the tragic loss of loved ones – a cause that is so close to the hearts of the Joseph Family.”…..
The Roger E. Joseph Prize was established 36 years ago by a generous gift from Burton M. Joseph, z”l, and his sister, Mrs. Betty Greenberg, in memory of their brother, a lawyer, World War II hero, and polio victim. Although almost completely paralyzed, he resumed his law practice and advanced causes of social justice, inspired by his own exceptional personal courage and passionate devotion to principle and justice.
The first Joseph Prize was awarded in 1978, to Victor Kugler, who risked his and his loved ones’ lives to shelter Anne Frank and her family. Over the past thirty-five years, the Joseph Prize recipients have included the following.
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