Paddles to Help Navigate Loss

By Beacon Staff

For many, the whisper of a canoe paddle in the water has signified the beginning of a new journey. Now, with the help of local artists, a canoe paddle could mean supporting someone else as they navigate through the heartache of losing a loved one.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, the Tamarack Grief Resource Center will host its annual Flathead Valley fundraiser dinner to benefit A Camp to Remember. The dinner and live auction, featuring the artists’ paddles, begins at 6 p.m. at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

The paddles have become something of a tradition for this dinner after other events proved their popularity, TGRC Associate Director Jim Parker said. This year’s paddles are used as a canvas for artists Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey, Carol Hagen, Sam Dauenhauer, Brett Thuma, Curt Shugart, Lorinda Smith, Kelly Apgar and John Rawlings, among others.

“The paddle art has become the sort of signature piece of these events,” he said. “We’re just thrilled to have these incredible artists donate their time for Tamarack.”

Some of the paddles can be viewed in various locations throughout the valley, including the Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Wheeler Jewelry Store in Kalispell.

TGRC is a Montana nonprofit organization that helps children, adults and families deal with the hardships and complications of grief through special bereavement camps held at Flathead and Georgetown lakes.

Their work began 15 years ago and continues each summer. There are two “A Camp to Remember” sessions each summer, which focus on children ages 8 to 14. The staff and volunteer-to-camper ratio at these camps is about three to one, Parker said.

Last summer, there were 53 kids at the Flathead Lake camp, Parker said, and they generally have between 40 and 60 kids attend each year. TGRC also hosts women’s retreats and teen programs.

The camps and retreats denote the beginning of a long friendship between the families and TGRC, built on the grieving process.

“It’s not something we just do and then we’re done,” Parker said. “It’s something that we grow with and we journey with.”

Though TGRC has retained donors through the recession, Parker said events like the benefit dinner are paramount for a nonprofit in these economic times. The money raised through the live paddle auction, the silent auction and the ticket sales will go toward the costs of maintaining their summer programs.

No one is turned away from camp, Parker said, even if they can’t afford it.

“This is one way we can try to give back to many of our supporters through a really fun night and to bring community together. It’s part of what we believe will help all of us,” Parker said.

The benefit dinner will feature a no-host cocktail hour and music starting at 6 p.m., a sit-down dinner at 7 p.m., a silent auction throughout the evening, and the live paddle art auction beginning around 8 p.m.

Tickets cost $75 per person, $140 per couple or $1,000 for a sponsor table of eight. Parker said tickets sales have eclipsed last year’s figures already, though plenty are still available.

Parker said TGRC does have expansion goals in the future, but they want to make sure they grow responsibly.

“As we grow, we want to make sure we grow with excellence and grow with sustainability,” he said. “We want to survive for a long time.”

For more information and ticketing information, visit www.tamarackgriefresourcecenter.org.

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