Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen

Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen works to help families begin to find their new normal after a catastrophic loss.This innovative outreach effort was a response to the pain and loss that people were feeling as military casualties from the war in Iraq hit home. Illinois Connections for Families of the Fallen connects families of military casualties through events, workshops, and peer support to help them begin to find a new normal after a catastrophic loss.

The initiative grew out of a project we undertook in 2008 to map the services available to military members and families. At this time, the Army was just starting a survivor outreach program; it was new, focused only on those who died while on active duty, and generally limited to their parents, spouses and children. We partnered with the new effort, creating events designed to give strength through finding connections and sharing fun and creative ways to promote the healing.

The Michael Reese Health Trust provided funding for the first event, held at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, where the official Elmo of Sesame Street put in an appearance with his new video, “When Military Families Grieve.” The annual spring and fall connection events are open to all family and friends of fallen Illinois Service Members, often helping more than 600 families a year.

As a founding member of ICFF, the Army Survivor Outreach Services has provided direction and helped develop the Community Resource Guide. MRHT continued to provide major funding, along with support from several other funders and partnerships with more than 25 different local and national agencies.

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