Bring on Disney

I’m taking part in the Disney Marathon in a little more than a week … that seems a little weird to say. After battling the flu last month, continuing to fight an annoying cough and just now getting back to feeling normal on a run, my main goal will be to have fun. I might just leave the watch behind so I don’t even know how slow I am. More important that my performance, though, is why I’m running Disney. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m joining Comfort Zone Camp’s Grief Relief Team.

Comfort Zone Camp provides free grief resources and resilience training to children who have suffered the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver. Their programs focus on the strengths of each child, empowering them to grieve, heal and grow in healthy ways.

Comfort Zone Camp CEO Lloyd Osgood is hoping to raise $20,000 for the Grief Relief Team by running the Goofy Challenge next week. Recently she answered a few questions about Comfort Zone Camp and why this is such a special event and cause.

Comfort Zone Camp logoWhat makes Comfort Zone Camp and Grief Relief Team special? What, for example, does a $50 donation do for a child?

Comfort Zone Camp understands the isolation a child feels following the loss of a mother, father, sister or brother. Our free weekend programs offer grief resources and resilience training so that our campers feel the support of a compassionate community, learn they are not alone and leave with valuable coping skills for daily life. Comfort Zone Camp is special because our staff and volunteers make it so.

The Grief Relief Team is the only one of its kind in the nation that we know of. While our runners participate for many reasons, the one thing that unites them to our cause is their desire to make a positive difference for a child or teen suffering the loss of a parent or sibling, undeniably one of the most traumatic events a child can experience.

Many Grief Relief Team members are actually Comfort Zone camper families, running to honor the memory of a loved one and to give back to a program that brought them comfort during a difficult time. A number of our volunteers run on the Grief Relief Team as well, taking their commitment to our program to a whole different level.

A $50 donation underwrites the cost of sending a child to camp. That $50 could go toward our volunteer recruitment and six-hour training process. Or we could apply it toward our extensive screening process where skilled professionals conduct interviews with those directly involved with the well-being of the child, for example, the parent, guidance counselor, and psychologist.

Another option would be to put the $50 toward the 1:1 matching process where campers are matched with a volunteer mentor whose sole purpose is to set each child up for success as he or she joins the Comfort Zone Camp community and learns to manage grief in a healthy way. Or we could use it to buy all the supplies we need to make s'mores at our bonfires!

Tell us why you chose to run the Goofy Challenge? What makes Disney such a big event?

To be perfectly honest, it was the bling. That's what motivated me to sign up last spring right before the event sold out. If you run the Goofy Challenge (13.1 miles on Saturday and 26.2 miles on Sunday), you leave with a medal of Donald Duck for the half-marathon, a nice Mickey Mouse medal for the marathon and a big brass Goofy medal for doing both.

Three medals, two races, one great cause.

When you're out there training, what goes through your mind as you know you're running for a cause beyond your health?

I have logged some miles training for this race ... lots of miles! It feels good to know I am part of a network of people who care about what happens to children suffering the loss of a parent or sibling and are willing to support my run financially to help a child in grief. Knowing I am raising money to make a difference for grieving children will keep me running -- one foot in front of the other -- for all 39.3 miles until I've crossed the finish line. Twice.

How many races have you done, and which is your favorite?

I ran the Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond once. In 2011, I ran the Disney Half Marathon and now I'm running the Goofy Challenge. Not a big racer. I like to run in the dark in the early morning with a group of friends, where I can run my run and not have to worry about thousands of other people in my path. Unless, of course, major bling and a good cause are involved.

What are your big goals for Comfort Zone Camp heading into 2013? We have a solid program year planned. Each of our four locations will hold a combined total of 22 camps including our traditional weekend program, several one day programs, and a weekend program for young adults. In addition, we will hold five camps in concert with various partners around the country. The big goal for 2013 is to continue to strengthen our organization -- from programs to volunteers to fundraising and infrastructure.

It's like running a marathon; we have to invest in the systems and processes we need in order to build to last.

To donate to the Grief Relief Team, visit Lloyd’s fundraising page.

Since the program originated in Richmond, Va., Comfort Zone has grown to serve more than 9,000 children at year-round camps in Virginia, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Each camp hosts approximately 60 campers, four Comfort Zone employees and up to 80 trained and screened volunteers. Key program components include traditional camp activities, confidence-building exercises and age-based group counseling led by trained and professional grief therapists. All campers are paired 1:1 with their own individual volunteer mentor (Big Buddy) whose sole purpose is to set each child up for success as they join the Comfort Zone Camp community and learn to manage their grief in a healthy way.