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A Story from Our Amanda the Panda Program: Saundra Connett

Unlike most kids, Saundra Connett's 11-year-old great-grandson Vincent looked forward to the first day of the week. "[Vincent] was cheerful on Mondays, man, he couldn't wait to come home from school to go to Amanda the Panda" said Connett. EveryStep's Grief & Loss Services' Amanda the Panda program was no playground or amusement park. However, it was a place to where Vincent felt comfortable and could face his grief. Vincent lost his great-grandfather, Victor Connett Sr., in 2017. But "Paa," as Vincent fondly called Victor, was more than just an elderly family relation. About a decade ago, the Connetts took responsibility for raising Vincent.

A Story from Our Amanda the Panda Program: Madee Carder

Madee Carder almost didn't attend the class that would change her life. Like many grief support professionals, she took the scenic route on her journey to her life's passion, and ultimately, her role at EveryStep's Grief & Loss Services' Amanda the Panda program. "I have always known that I wanted to work with children and adolescents. So I actually started out going to school as an elementary education major," Carder explained. When a representative from Hamilton's Funeral home visited her children's literature class to talk about their grief and loss program, Carder was surprised to learn that such programs for children even existed. "The next day I was in my advisor's office changing my major [to] Child, Adult and Family Services" she recalled.

A Story from Our Hospice Houses: Dena Williams

Death altered every aspect of Dena Williams' life. "Someone said it's life altering, and it really is. It doesn't matter how old you are. I'm 50 and I can't imagine anything harder ever happening to me than losing my parents," she explained while reminiscing about her late-father's time at EveryStep's Kavanagh House on 56th Street. "It's very surreal, it's very surreal." Clyde Williams married Dena's mother when Dena was eight-years old. He raised her, along with her two brothers until they were old enough to live on their own. Even then, he was never far, living only a short distance away from where Dena settled down.

A Story from Our Hospice Program: Andrea Blake

Andrea Blake always wanted to be a nurse. In high school, while her peers were pursuing summer jobs at the mall or restaurants, she was working at an assisted living home. After graduation, she began working toward a bachelor's degree in nursing. After moving to the East Coast, Blake began work at a teaching hospital on a unit dedicated to infectious disease and general medicine. After a bit of encouragement from a mentor, she continued her education, seeking a master's degree in nursing. "There's so much hands-on learning that you continue to do after graduating and in your early years of nursing.I felt I couldn't stop working while starting my graduate studies," she recalls of furthering her education.