Butler County event an oasis from mourning for bereaving parents

A Butler County farm transformed Saturday into an oasis from grief for those who have experienced the death of a child.

More than 500 families, friends and supporters traveled to the Niederman Family Farm in rural Liberty Twp. for the annual “Help Endure A Loss” (HEAL) festival where those bereaving can focus on joyous moments and draw strength in fellowship.

Everyone was invited to share in the festival games, memorial race, activities, foods and fun but not everything was welcomed at the event.

Notably absent were sadness, pity and mourning.

Parents and families who have had young children have already experienced plenty of those dire emotions, said Sheree Young, HEAL coordinator of Middletown’s Atrium Medical Center event.

“Families who have had kids die often don’t feel like they deserve to have a good time so this is our attempt of helping them do that,” said Young, who had a young child die.

“This event is really, really important because families think ‘our children are gone so what do we have to celebrate?’” she said.

“But this festival gives people the opportunity to do that. And it’s a comfortable space knowing that they are hundreds of other families around them who have gone through the same tragedy in their lives,” said Young. “We can live again. We can have fun and enjoy life and still remember our kids who have died all in the same time.”

Part of that remembrance including a crowd of festival goers releasing in unison “memory balloons” to honor those youngsters who passed too early.

Among the parents who released balloons were Adam and Kimberly Oswalt of Springfield, who lost two young children in recent years.

For them the festival is bittersweet but with the emphasis on sweet.

“To have an event like this for parents who may not have a day to celebrate a birthday or birthdays (of the deceased) … to have fun, it’s nice and it’s fun,” said Adam Oswalt.

Kimberly Oswalt agreed, saying “we are able to remember our children who have passed and unlike some memorial type services, which can be very somber and maybe a lot of tears, this is one where you can still remember your children but have a wonderful time.”

“It brings a lot of joy to our hearts,” she said smiling.

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