Posted on Oct 15, 2019
Matthews House Hospice is a home in the heart of South Simcoe that offers residential-based care to people in the last stages of their lives, as well as community-based programs for people dealing with grief or a life-limiting illness. Through a dedicated team of more than 100 professionals and volunteers, Matthews House provides compassionate palliative care to area residents and their families.
“The final days of a loved one affect all family members deeply,” explains Dave Green of the Rotary Club of Alliston.  “What is often overlooked is the wrenching impact on children and teens who lose a parent.  They may not be able to show or even explain their emotions but the loss can scar them for years -- even their entire life.”
“That’s why we’re so pleased Rotary stepped up to enable the launch of our Helping Us Understand Grief (HUUG) program,” added Eryn Samchanda, the Grief and Bereavement Coordinator at Matthews House.  “This unique training program is designed to prepare our counselors to assist young people in coming to grips with the loss of a parent or loved one.  Most kids don’t know where to turn when facing a life-altering tragedy of this nature, which can affect their schooling, friendships and their entire social structure.  Through HUUG, we groom young counselors who can relate to the kids on their own level.  Some of them have even been through similar losses themselves.  Finding the courage to help others helps themselves move forward as well.”
Sara McConnell is a 17-year-old senior at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston.  She lost her stepmother Tracey -- “my best friend” -- in November and has been relying on Matthews House to steady her through the grieving period.  “It’s a healthy place you can lean on when you’re going through hard times,” Sara explained.  “It’s good to have someone to talk to and get feedback on how to help myself.  But for a lot of kids it’s harder to reach out to an adult, because of the age gap.” 
That’s why Rotary decided to support the new HUUG program to help vulnerable youth who are less able to help themselves through a period of grief.  George Scott, chair of Rotary’s Community Service Committee, explained.  “Our club donates funds and time to a variety of worthy causes in New Tecumseth.  HUUG is one that addresses what we believe is an under-served segment of our society.  It’s personal to me as well, since my daughters lost their mother when they were 18 and 14, and struggled for years in dealing with that big hole in their lives.”
At Matthews House, Sara has found the comfort and understanding she needed: “I want to tell Eryn about everything in my life -- not just the loss and grief.  Anything I’m excited about I want Eryn to know about it.”  Asked how Matthews House has made a difference for her in dealing with the loss of her stepmother, Sara said: “I can talk about it without crying now.  I can now remember her in a happy way.”