Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Starting on the 10 year milestone of my son's passing last year, I decided to honor him by taking a trip somewhere that I had never been before. Cameron and I loved to travel together, and it felt like a good idea. Last year it was to the Republic of Ireland, this year to the Belgian Coast. Each trip uniquely magical and profoundly spiritual for me. Although I was accompanied by my stalwart companion, Flat Stanley, who is my service dog, I found both trips to be quite lonesome with no one to sup with or share my memories of Cameron. I could sense him sitting right on my shoulder the whole time on both trips.
Upon visiting the glorious medieval city of Bruges, I met a small group of 6 or 7 women from the Netherlands, all between the ages of 40 & 60, who called themselves Collega's, which means colleagues in Dutch. They explained that they were all non-elderly widows and widowers (no men were along on this trip), who formed this travel group to get away, have some upbeat or relaxing adventures, accompanied by people of a similar age who had experienced the loss of a partner firsthand. They developed camaraderie within the group that might not be achieved any other way.
Inspired, I asked about the group's name. It seemed unrelated to their particular ethos. Sylvia, the eldest of the women, and the one I really connected with, said that it was called Collega's so that people wouldn't think they were a group of morose mourners. They could feel free to travel and have a good time without stigma or pity. Brilliant.
My wheels were spinning all throughout the streets of Bruges. By the time I got back to my hotel in Blankenberge, I had decided to evolve the vision and change the name of our foundation, The Brain Candy Project, which Cameron & I formed in 2007, a year before his passing. It was a support system for parents living in hospitals with their critically ill children. Holding parents so parents can hold their children, was our motto.
Since 2007, BCP raised over $14,500, providing care and support to parents and caregivers whose children were enduring a critical health crisis. We have been nominated for a major tech award for the development of the Brain Candy Project Retreat Center in Second Life, launched the Brain Candy Stripers network, sponsored St. Baldrick's Foundation shaves, and established a permanent endowment at the University of MN Masonic Children's Hospital. We are so proud of the important work we have accomplished in the past dozen years, and are so excited for this transformation.
The Brain Candy Project has been fairly dormant for a couple of years, so the time is ripe for a shift in the mission. The new identity, The Lost Travelers Club also came from an experience I had on this trip to Belgium. I was given wrong information and ended up on a different train that the one I was supposed to be on, and, long story short, I ended up arriving 5 hours later than I should have at my destination. The steward at the train station in Brussels called me a "lost traveler." I nearly cried. You see, there is no word (such as widow or orphan) to describe a parent who has outlived their child. "Bereaved parent" was accurate whilst I was in mourning, but I have not felt bereft for a very long time, and I wanted to break out of the bereavement box. Lost Traveler did it, and it is a completely accurate expression for how it feels to try and navigate the world with such a tremendous hole in my soul.
People always describe child loss as "the club no one wants to belong to." Well, now we have a club where we belong, without stigma, to break out of bereavement and back into the world, in a safe, exciting and powerful way.
The Lost Travelers Club will be open to any parent who has lost a child, birth through teen. We will raise funds to provide financial assistance to those who, because of modest means or hardship would be limited in their ability to travel. Funds will help cover the costs of transportation, tour busses, fees, passports, food, accommodation and cultural events for those who are in need.
In time, I foresee us expanding to charter special adventures and cruises that can include a child's siblings, extended families and friends. For now, though, we will start small, with only parents in the club. The world is waiting for our return.
Heartfelt gratitude to all who supported The Brain Candy Project over the past 12 years. We can all be proud of the many people we have served and will continue to through the endowment.
We are keeping our beautiful Brain Candy butterfly logo. It expresses the freedom of "letting the butterfly out of the box," which was the spirit behind The Brain Candy Project and continues to fly now with the Lost Travelers Club. Merch will be available!! Let us know what items you would like to see our logo on!
We hope you will spread the word about our exciting new charitable program, and continue your generous and kind support for The Lost Travelers Club. One-time or repeated tax-deductible donations can be made through our fiscal sponsor, United Charitable. Automatic credit card donations can be set up for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual gifts of support. The following link will take you directly to the donation page. Corporate and Angel giving is most welcome, and will be promoted on our website as sponsorships. CLICK HERE
Founder, Executive Director
The Lost Travelers Club
Getting there together...