Cookie Monster appears in Dougy Center benefit

Discover why Portland was the only city visited by TV’s ‘Cookie Monster’ – to team up with the good folks from this internationally-known East Portland grief counseling center that helps adults better understand how to help children dealing with death …

Shanon Adamson-John enjoys crafts with her son, Dakotah, along with The Dougy Center’s executive director, Donna Schuurman.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Just about a year ago – in fact, on Father’s Day, 2009 – the main building housing The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families, on S.E. 52nd near Foster Road, sustained severe damage due to what is believed to be an arson fire. That arson case has not yet been solved.

> See our coverage, including exclusive photos of the fire: CLICK HERE.

“We’ve continued our work in temporary locations,” said Donna Schuurman, the center’s Executive Director, at the “Cookies with Cookie Monster” event at Oaks Amusement Park on April 15. Portland was the only city visited by TV’s “Cookie Monster” this year.

“We have a ‘fair settlement’ offer from our insurance company,” Schuurman told us. “But the building has been, for all practical purposes, destroyed.  We will start deconstruction and demolition in May. We’ll have rebuilding under way – in a year and a half to two years. The insurance won’t cover all of the rebuilding costs; we thank the generous donors who continue to support our mission.”

Sophia Oltean rushes to greet Cookie Monster at the Oaks Park Dance Pavilion’s front door.

Helping parents help little children
The event they were hosting, which was sponsored by Oregon Public Broadcasting, was held to bring attention to a new initiative from the producers of Sesame Street called, “When Families Grieve.”

According to the program’s producers, about one in twenty children under the age of 15 experiences the death of one or both parents. “Today, we’re distributing free ‘When Families Grieve’ resource kits,” Schuurman said. “It includes a DVD that gives families age-appropriate tools to support and comfort children who have experienced the death of a parent or loved one.”

What she’s found out during her years as a grief counselor, Schuurman, noted, is that the littlest kids are really open and unedited in their expression. “They’ll say, ‘Hi, my daddy got crushed by a car and died; will you marry my mommy?’ Many adults don’t know how to respond to openness like that. The ‘When Families Grieve’ program fits well with our mission of helping families deal with death issues.”

Breana Pace gets a hug from the Cookie Monster at the Dougy Center event promoting a new initiative from the producers of Sesame Street called, “When Families Grieve”.

Everyone at the Oaks Park appearance lined up for their own personal meeting with the Cookie Monster.

Teams up with ‘Cookie Monster’
That same evening, Oregon Public Broadcasting aired a special show on this topic, hosted by Katie Couric.

“Portland was the only city selected by Sesame Street for a walkaround character event,” confirmed the organization’s communications coordinator, Kassie Boehringer, at the Oaks Park appearance. “The helped us by providing the character to acknowledge The Dougy Center’s assistance, helping them develop this special project.”

On cue, into the Oaks Dance Pavilion waddled the electric-blue plush Cookie Monster, direct from Sesame Street. Kids giggled and laughed; some rushed up to give the googly-eyed cookie-lover a hug.

“We want to let everyone know about the services we offer, right here in Portland, at The Dougy Center,” Schuurman explained. “We’re the kind of place we hope you don’t need – but we hope you will keep us in mind, and remember that we are here, if you do need us.”

The Dougy Center’s Kassie Boehringer shows a copy of the “When Families Grieve” kit she says is still available, in limited quantities – free – from their organization.

Kits still available
The Dougy Center has a limited number left of these free “When Families Grieve” resource kits, Boehringer said after the event. “To find out more about these kits, this program, or any of the other services we offer, see our website (CLICK HERE to visit it). Or, give us a call at (503) 775-5683.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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