Losing a loved one at any age is a difficult experience. But when you are young, it can be absolutely devastating. That is why, teens like Kelton Turner, Connor Blunt, Hampton Hightower and Tatumn Kennedy, have set out to make sure no child in Meeker feels alone in their grief.
“I lost my first person in 2011. Then two more shortly after that. So, I have been in HopeWest Kids’ groups pretty much all my life,” Kelton said. “I knew I always I wanted to give back the same thing I got. When they asked me to help younger kids, I really jumped at the opportunity because I knew how much HopeWest helped me, and I wanted to help the other kids.”
In 2015, the HopeWest Kids program in Meeker founded HopeWest Cowboys with the help of a former in-school group member.
“HopeWest Cowboys is something we do through the high school,” Tatumn said. “We come to the elementary school and work with kids that are a part of the program. Once a week we come do crafts for an hour and talk through some of the emotions that they are feeling. I think this program is super awesome for us as young adults. We are learning how to talk to younger kids and just be better people in general.”
The teens involved in HopeWest Cowboys go through an application and training process to become a part of the program. Once they are accepted, they become mentors for the younger kids who have experienced a significant loss or change. Many of the HopeWest Cowboys were once in the program as children and had a teen mentor who inspired them to give back.
“I got started in the kids groups when I was younger,” Connor said, “And I just wanted to pay forward what they had given to me. So I figured I can help the kids because I’ve had a similar experience and I know how it feels.”
This experience allows for the teens and kids to meet at different stages of grief and grow together.
“Loss happens in life and you have to move forward, but you can’t completely forget about it. You can also learn a lot through it,” Hampton said. “Going to the elementary school and talking with the kids has been really helpful and has an impact on their lives and mine.”
While the circumstances that brought the children and teens together are trying, they have formed important bonds they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“We were online for most of last year,” Kelton said. “The first day I got to see my kid in person, he ran up and gave me a huge hug. This program means a lot to them and me.”