“Crawford Woods is blessed to have John Connell,” said Sheila Munafo-Kanoza, COJ director and executive founder.
“The children who are grieving the death of a parent, sibling or loved one know that he is someone they can turn to, and he will help guide them along on their grief journey,” said Munafo-Kanoza.
“John illuminates Christ’s love. He is kind, compassionate and recognizes the importance of helping a grieving child. Parents know their children are cared for when they come to COJ’s monthly session because John takes the time to reach out to them and listens to their children’s needs,” she said.
Connell said “six years ago, I met Sheila and thought, ‘Wow. This is exactly what we need (at Crawford Woods Elementary),’ because we didn’t have any grief counseling at the time.”
“In the first year of COJ being at Crawford Woods, there were just four students that attended group, but now there are over 30,” said Connell.
“Students love the group. They make friends. They learn healthy coping skills. They’ll stop me in the hallway and excitedly ask, ‘When is COJ here next?’ We’ve taken something that is really sad and made it something that makes them happy.”
Crawford Woods Principal Aaron Hopkins said though Connell is being recognized for his grief counseling work ― who was also recognized with a proclamation from Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller ― the counselor has done much more in his seven years at the school.
“We have many students who have experienced the loss of a loved one,” said Hopkins. “But John is able to build meaningful relationships with our students at an early age. He keeps these relationships going each year. "
“This has had an immeasurable impact on student behavior and the overall climate of the school. John supports the emotional and social development of all students,” he said.