When Diana Stirling first learned about the child grief support counsellor Susan Kast was providing for kids in the community she was compelled to do what she could to help.
That’s because when her older brother Mike Steffen died in a workplace accident in 1999 at age 26, she knew all too well that feeling of loss and aloneness the kids Kast was counselling were experiencing.
“When Mike was killed, I remember desperately searching for someone that had lost their sibling, just to talk to someone that had an idea of the grief I was going through,” said Stirling, co-owner of LocoLanding Adventure Park that her parents built in Mike’s memory. “Susan’s program provides that for our Penticton children, as well as the very much needed counselling and support services.
“Each family I’ve spoken with have said they would have been lost without Susan, she is truly a gift in our community and to these grieving families.”
Several years ago she reached out to Kast to make LocoLanding available for a wrap-up party for the kids and their families each year to have fun and make memories with others going through the same trials.
Five years ago Kast started providing the service through the Penticton and District Hospice Society program however she left in 2018 and it was discontinued.
But because of the tremendous need, she realized it had to continue and started it up again on her own on a limited budget and once again Stirling was quick to offer her assistance and to make others aware of the need.
“That’s what concerns me though is that this group that provides grief services to Penticton children and youth is no longer funded,” said Stirling. “I’ll be working with Susan to see how we can keep her program going. We require $11,000 annually and a place for the children to meet monthly.”
That assistance includes opening LocoLanding for mini golf and Lickity Splitz (ice cream) for one final day this year on Sept. 22 by donation with all proceeds going towards the program.
Adolf and Lesley Steffen built the park on a dream of creating memories in honour of their son Mike when they moved to Penticton two years after his death.
“To be able to provide a few hours of fun, laughs and memories for this precious group of children was everything my parents had built LocoLanding for,” said Stirling, whose brother died the day before her 24th birthday.
“Mike and I were always close. Growing up on a farm in Lumby it was just he and I and my parents, working side-by-side every day,” recalled Stirling. “He loved hockey, had the biggest smile, gave the best hugs and I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.
“LocoLanding was very much their (mother and father) therapy. My dad was able to build and my mom spent all of her time in the gardens,” said Stirling. “To say that LocoLanding is built from love is an understatement.”
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