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Each donation of $50 will help the Tim Griffith Foundation offer scholarships for grieving parents to attend the foundation’s weekend-long Meadowlark Grief Retreats.

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© San Jose Mercury News. Donations to the Wish Book Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are tax deductible. The tax ID number is 77-0229665.

Foundation offers grieving parents a weekend of bonding

Founded by a mother whose 21-year-old son was killed, the Tim Griffith Foundation offers respite for grieving parents in the form of weekend retreats with those going through similar trauma.

By Eric Kurhi
MERCURY NEWS

REDWOOD CITY — It’s been a decade since 21-year-old Tim Griffith was slain outside AT&T Park after a historic baseball game when he was stabbed in the heart by a man who took umbrage that Griffith slapped his car window as he walked by.

The passing of years has not eased the constant grief for his mother, Stacey Redman. The feeling of loss, she says, will never go away — and she doesn’t want it to. But she did want to make sure that her son is remembered not as just another tragic murder victim, but for the “huge heart and kind soul” his friends and family remember him by.

So a year after her son’s death, Redman started the Tim Griffith Foundation with three goals in mind:

“Tim was really kind, and he helped so many people,” she said. “We wanted to continue that on. We want him to be remembered for the kind spirit that he was. I said, ‘Hey, we can help people impacted by addiction, violence and loss. It’s what Tim would have done.’ ”

Redman’s current goal is to expand the foundation’s Meadowlark Retreat program, which addresses the seemingly insurmountable feeling of loss that parents have following the death of a child. The foundation’s goal is to never turn away a grieving parent because of lack of funding, and Redman hopes Wish Book readers can help provide scholarship funding for people who don’t have the means to pay for a weekend outing. Donations will go toward the $1,200-per-person cost.

“There are so many people who I think it could benefit, and they can’t afford it,” she said. “But it is expensive to put together, and I just never want money to be an issue for someone who needs it.”

Griffith was killed three weeks after his birthday and just two days after he was taken off ankle-monitored supervision through San Mateo County’s Bridges drug rehabilitation program. According to his mom, he was doing well, living at home and in high spirits when, on Sept 17, 2004, he went with close friends to see Barry Bonds hit his 700th home run.

After the game, Griffith was knifed in an altercation with Rafael Cuevas, who was later convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison in 2008. Cuevas admitted in court that he had sought out the confrontation.

Redman got the idea for a weekend retreat after she attended counseling sessions at Kara, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit dedicated to grief support.

“I’d go every Wednesday for 90 minutes, but just as we were really getting into something it was time to leave,” Redman said. “But then we’d be in the parking lot and keep talking — I craved being with other parents and was making wonderful friendships.”

The semiannual retreats, started in 2010, run Friday afternoon through Sunday, with about seven participants. They convene at Spirit Hill Farm in Sonoma County, spacious grounds in a natural setting with a pool, hot tub and other amenities. Volunteers manage meals so participants can focus on their grief in a way that can’t be done while steering a course through everyday life.

“We want to create an environment in which moms can face different emotions that are hard to do when they are taking care of other children and other people, where they have to show up for work or have other responsibilities,” said Leslie Chen, who has served as a facilitator since she designed the initial retreat. “By having an entire weekend where all they are focused on is themselves and how they are feeling, and supporting each other, they are able to express emotions in a way that’s really hard to do alone.”

Will and Sara Belknap, whose 19-year-old daughter died in a car accident three days after Christmas in 2008, both have attended retreats and said the common ground reached with other parents is crucial.

“I think the first time you go and immerse yourself, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Sara Belknap, adding that the foundation also holds a pair of reunion events each year.

Belknap said she’s met other moms who she “will be friends with forever.”

“Being in a place with people you understand and who understand you, and not having to explain what you’re going through, you feel very taken care of,” she said.

Redman agreed that those connections are unique.

“You can have good friends, close friends, but they’re not going to understand that,” she said. “They want you back more than anything, they want you to be the person you were before. But that’s not going to happen.”

She recalled meeting with two other bereaved mothers for an unusual luncheon. They packed their children’s favorite foods and gathered on a weekend before Mother’s Day at a cemetery, near where their loved ones’ ashes lay.

“What a lunch,” Redman said with a laugh. “Pepperoni pizza, Skittles, candy and beer! It was pretty disgusting.

“Would any other friend want to do something like that? It sounds so morbid. But with those moms, it felt perfectly natural.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information about the Tim Griffith Foundation, go to www.timgriffithfoundation.org.

Each donation of $50 will help the Tim Griffith Foundation offer scholarships for grieving parents to attend the foundation’s weekend-long Meadowlark Grief Retreats.

Donate

© San Jose Mercury News. Donations to the Wish Book Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are tax deductible. The tax ID number is 77-0229665.