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Local military families learn to cope with loss through national organization

For the past 27 years, through counseling and workshops, the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors has helped more than 100,000 military families deal with grief.
Credit: Shaquille Omari

HERSHEY, Pa. — On Saturday, camp-like fun with games and team building activities took center stage in Hershey. However, this was not a traditional camp, but one to help military families cope with grief.

The two-day seminar was put together by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that's helped many adults and children learn to cope with grief, share stories, and find healing through experiences.

"You feel comfortable explaining, where as at school counseling you won't do that," said 12-year-old Michael Hansen.

Back in 2009, when Michael was 5 months old, his father Sargent Dennis Hansen was killed during a tour in Afghanistan.

"It's sad that I don't get to spend time with him, I don't get to fish and play sports. Like Father's Day, when everyone else is making something, I'm off to the side," said Hansen.

Since 1994, TAPS has provided more than 100,000 families with free counseling and healing workshops.

"It's inspiring to see families coming together to remember lives lived whether it was suicide, illness and combat loss. It's about remembering a life that was in service to our country," said TAPS founder, Bonnie Carroll.

To connect with survivors, military veterans volunteer as mentors.

"I think I bring just kind of normalcy, there's a whole lot that happens in these kids lives and every once in a while they just want someone to play connect 4 or scrabble. That's all," said Alexander Penn, a mentor.

In the future, Hansen hopes to become a mentor as a way to pay it forward.

"I've can help other people how they've helped me, because it's good to help people when you can," said Hansen.

To find workshops and seminars through TAPS, click here.

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