Dorothea was in ninth grade and 13 years old when she started participating in the Park Nicollet Growing Through Grief (GTG) program after her mom died.

Supported entirely by philanthropy, GTG provides free school-based grief support and education to students in kindergarten through high school who have experienced the death of a family member or friend.

“I still had a lot to process so my dad and I thought it would be a good idea to get involved with the program,” Dorothea shares.

At first, she had a hard time sharing with her peers, but eventually it became easier and she grew to value the connection she made with GTG counselor Daena Esterbrooks.

Now a junior and no longer in the GTG program, Dorothea shared with Daena how art helped her as she processed and mourned her Mom’s death. Dorothea offered to join elementary groups to share some activities with them.


“Art has helped me in my grieving process so I wanted to share the relief with others,” says Dorothea. “We’ve done one project a month. Our first, the ‘dream board’ project, is meant to help kids map out their futures and show the opportunities in life even after losing someone.”

Dorothea says volunteering has helped her as much, if not more, than she hopes it has helped the kids. “It’s given me an outlet to share my feelings in a safe space where I don’t feel judged or feel like I have to act a certain way.”

And according to Daena, the kids love Dorothea. “They thought it was ‘cool’ that a Hopkins junior was spending time with them,” she says. “Many of them opened up and shared things they hadn’t before. I believe it was Dorothea’s energy, heart and ability to connect on a real level with them that made the difference.”

Daena then adds, “Being at a place in your own grief where you are able and want to give back is a beautiful thing.”

Each week more than 627 students across 15 partnering school districts participate in GTG, learning about grief, developing coping skills and building resiliency through group and one-to-one counseling sessions.

You can help kids like Dorothea and support this unique program by making a gift to the Park Nicollet Foundation online or by calling (952) 993-5023.

Please select from the foundations listed below to make your gift. Thank you.