FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Nov. 30, 2018) - Eight years ago, the Kraft family and Patriots Foundation introduced Celebrate Volunteerism, a season-long initiative focused on recognizing community volunteers and promoting the importance of giving back to the community through service.
Throughout the 2018 season, the foundation will continue its Celebrate Volunteerism initiative by teaming with nonprofit organizations to educate fans about the need for volunteering, highlighting deserving volunteers from across the region and seeking to inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. The foundation will present a weekly "Patriots Difference Maker of the Week" award, which recognizes deserving volunteers who go above and beyond to support their New England communities.
"We originally started the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative as a tribute to my sweetheart, Myra," said Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "Over the past eight years, it has become the heart and soul of the Patriots Foundation, just like Myra was. We enjoy shining the light on local volunteers that are committed to improving the lives of children and families across the region and we hope that this inspires our fans to get more involved in their communities."
Sara Deren from Westport, Conn. has been selected as a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for her commitment to Experience Camps, a nonprofit organization providing a unique camp experience for children that have lost a parent, sibling or caregiver.
More than 10 years ago, Sara created Experience Camps as a way to teach children how to deal with their grief. She merged a traditional summer camp experience with a substantive and well-prescribed grief program that allows children to bond with each other while building a supportive community.
"I founded Experience Camps to create a community for grieving children," said Sara. "At camp, our kids are able to break down the walls of isolation and experience the playfulness of childhood that is often overshadowed by their loss."
The program develops a platform for children to share their stories, remember the person they lost and to find a healthy emotional balance. Sara and her team of volunteer counselors help to build confidence, encourage laughter and teach the children that they are not alone in their journey. Under the guidance of licensed clinicians, campers have the opportunity to remember the person who died, while developing the tools they need to help guide their grief through adolescence and adulthood.
In the program's first year, 27 boys attended the week-long summer camp in Maine. Today, the camp serves more than 600 boys and girls ages eight to 18 at five different sites nationwide.
"The campers have the opportunity to meet kids who are coping with similar challenges, while getting all of the benefits of the traditional summer camp experience," said Sara. "Through team sports, peer support and bunk living they learn about leadership, confidence and cooperation, but most importantly, they're surrounded by a community that offers a renewed sense of hope and a deep level of connection."
Sara has continued to lead the program through unprecedented growth and now manages more than 325 volunteer counselors. She works with children from all walks of life and teaches them that while we all suffer loss, we all can and will endure when we stick together.
"We are so grateful to the Kraft family, the New England Patriots team and staff and all Patriots fans," said Sara. "They are now part of our village, sending grieving children a clear message that they are not alone."
Fifteen individuals will be named Patriots Difference Makers throughout the season. The outstanding volunteers will be recognized on the Patriots website and in print materials, including Patriots Football Weekly and Patriots GameDay magazine. They will also be honored during a special ceremony at the Patriots final regular season home game against the New York Jets on Sunday, December 30.