May 24, 2016
West Palm Beach, FL - For Alicia Braaf, April 29, 2013, is a day that will be forever seared into her mind. The young mother of two had sent her husband, David, on a dinner mission to pick up pizza for the family on a quiet Monday evening. He never returned, only to be found in a car in the parking lot of a nearby shopping plaza, the victim of multiple gunshot wounds.
“I said no, this can’t be it,” said Braaf. Frantic, she arrived at the crime scene, only to have to identify her husband as the victim of a violent crime, and have her family’s entire world turned upside down.
First came the police, then the television news crews that camped out in the family’s front yard, and nonstop calls from newspaper reporters. The experience was overwhelming for Alicia and her two children, who found their world forever changed and had no idea how to rebuild.
Her son, David “Junior” Braaf, now 8, took his father’s death very hard. His mother said he began acting out in school toward teachers and other students. She stated it was around this time that the kids’ grandfather, who was suffering from a terminal illness, was placed into end-of -life care with Hospice of Palm Beach County. After his passing, Braaf began looking into the hospice’s grief support services, specifically, the Sea Star Program, which addresses the unique needs of children and teens who have lost a loved one.
Knowing that Junior was experiencing a difficult time and that children react differently from adults when a family member dies, Braaf enrolled him in the program. Junior has been involved in Sea Star Program for two years, and Braaf said the family has seen a significant change in his behavior and progress in school, where he is now enrolled in gifted courses and excelling.
“The Sea Star Program and the staff behind it are truly a miracle. It was a blessing in disguise to have had a family member under Hospice care and find out about the program. They have transformed Junior,” said Braaf. “We are just building our lives again, and the support provided by the program has been crucial in being able to get our lives back to as normal as possible.”
Every year, Junior and many other children and teens from Palm Beach and Broward counties benefit from the services provided by the Sea Star Program, including individual counseling, school-based counseling groups and three different camp programs – Camp Good Grief, a three-day overnight camp; Camp Stingray, a week-long day camp; and Club Seahorse, a special day program that features an interactive experience with miniature horses and farm animals. Each camp program offers grief support, interactive therapy, music, art, outdoor adventures and cooperative activities.
Funding for these programs is made possible by events such as the 17th Annual Horizons Fishing Tournament, held by the Hospice of Palm Beach County Foundation and Hospice by the Sea Foundation, which takes place on Saturday, June 18.
“The Foundation is once again honored to have the Sea Star Program and children’s bereavement services as the beneficiary of proceeds from the Horizons Fishing Tournament,” said Greg Leach, President of Hospice of Palm Beach County Foundation and Hospice by the Sea Foundation. “When a family member dies, children grieve and process traumatic experiences differently from adults. Many children still believe it will never happen to them or anyone they know. Our team of professionals offers children and teens in our community various forms of support, and they tailor the individual experience to meet each child's grieving needs.”
This year’s Kingfish, Dolphin and Wahoo (KDW) tournament will offer over $25,000 in cash and prizes, including a $5,000 grand prize for the heaviest kingfish, dolphin or wahoo. There will also be a Ladies KDW Division, with a $500 cash prize and gifts, a Junior Division for anglers 15 and younger, with a $300 cash prize, and many other ways to win.
During the Horizons tournament, there will be a fishing clinic for children participating in the Foundation’s bereavement program to learn to become anglers. The day of sun and fun ends with the official weigh-in at the Riviera Beach Marina at 4 p.m., followed by an awards ceremony with food, drink, raffles and entertainment.