History of the Chicagoland Bereaved Parents
The Chicagoland Chapter (formerly Hinsdale Chapter) of Bereaved Parents of the USA has a long and fruitful history. As a self-help support group for bereaved parents, the Chapter has met monthly for almost 40 years. The Chapter began in 1974 after the death of two children: Mark Balster and Christine Marie Longo. Mark’s father, the Rev. Donald Balster, opened his church in Hinsdale to the group’s monthly meetings.
Our bereaved parent support group hosted a national conference in 1983 in Oak Brook, IL. That same year we designed and marketed our first holiday card. We have designed, printed and sold a different design every year since 1983. Proceeds from the annual holiday card sales have allowed the Chapter to support self-help efforts nationally in our organization, as well as efforts in our own chapter. Over time, the holiday card project has become a service to bereaved parents. In our chapter, the card sales allow us to pay speakers at our meetings and hold butterfly and balloon releases at special monthly meetings. It also allows us to hold an annual Candle Lighting Program in December.
In 2001, we hosted a one-day gathering of bereaved parents and siblings with speakers, workshops, a communal lunch and a book store. The turnout was impressive and the bereaved parents who attended it rated it very highly. In 2007, our chapter worked closely with the national organization to produce a three-day National Gathering at a hotel in Downers Grove. Also, each year, the Chapter has made a significant contribution to the current year’s BP/USA National Gathering. We are pleased to be able to do that with funds earned through our holiday card project.
The Chicagoland Chapter is guided by a steering committee made up of parents who have experienced the death of a child in diverse ways and at different ages. This ensures that all aspects and situations of the grief process are addressed at our meetings. We are under the umbrella of the BP/USA national organization, which is a 501C (3) tax-deductible entity.