Chris Cosenza has found a fun way to give back to the organization that helps children and families deal with the death of a family member, something he knows all too well.
Cosenza, a Brookhaven resident who grew up on Long Island, New York, was only 5 when his father Louis, 30, died of leukemia.
Sandy Springs-based Hospice Atlanta, which is part of the Visiting Nurse Health System, provides in-home care for terminally ill patients and support for the rest of their families before and after their deaths, serving the entire metro Atlanta region. For at least the past seven years, Cosenza has volunteered at Hospice Atlanta’s biannual Camp STARS (Sharing Together As Real Support), a bereavement camp for children, adults and their families.
“I was introduced to Hospice Atlanta around 2006 through a client of mine,” he said. “I was looking for a charitable organization to get involved with and one that I felt connected to. I was introduced to the planning committee for the Big-To-Do at the Zoo (fundraiser), which Hospice used to (host). Then I was introduced to Barbara Moore, who was one of the co-founders of Camp STARS, and then the Chrysalis Club, which was started by young professionals with a passion for the mission of Hospice Atlanta.
"When I started volunteering at Camp STARS, I found a big connection. I was helping at this camp with families that lost a loved one. There are all sorts of people who lost loved ones through everything from illness such as cancer, accidents, and even homicide. It was great way for me to give back since I went through this type of loss as a kid.”
Cosenza and his family founded the Cardinal Rock Foundation, in honor of his father, and it will host the Brookhaven Wealth Management Charity Golf Classic and Fundraiser April 16 at Ansley Golf Club — Settindown in Roswell.
“Last year we learned that the camp was going to need some additional funding going forward, so that’s what prompted me to put together this charitable foundation with my brother (Tom) to honor my dad,” he said. “I was fortunate to invite some friends and colleagues to join a committee and got about a dozen (commit to it). I’ve wanted to do a golf tournament for a long time. So when we learned it was going to be necessary to find some new funding for the camp, I had the idea to float this to some friends. Would you be willing to help? They said yes, so we put the planning committee and the foundation together last year.”
Camp STARS, which has one camp a year in Atlanta and another at Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, about an hour east of the city, is part of Hospice Atlanta’s mission to help families who can’t afford the care they may need to deal with a family member’s death. According to its website, each year the organization spends more than $4 million on patient care for the underinsured. Camp STARS has been huge for Cosenza.
“I think for me personally, it’s just a wonderful way for me to assist in a small way to provide support to families,” he said. “For these families to have a place to constructively grieve with their family unit and with their peers and to also have fun at the camp while there is meaningful and helpful. I said this at the committee meeting yesterday. Our impact we hope can sometimes be these kids staying on the straight and narrow instead of not doing that because they’re under so much stress. (It’s) the ability to try to connect with these kids to let them know they’re not alone, and to help them through this difficult experience.
“Everyone grieves in their own way. But if you have some small potential to help them get through the trauma of losing a loved one when you’re a child, that’s important. It’s not always that Grandpa died at 92 of natural causes, and instead it can be very shocking unexpectedly losing a spouse, parent, or child of the family. We didn’t have anything like that when I was growing up in New York. I was blessed to grow up in a great family with great schools on Long Island and great friends. Not every family is afforded those luxuries. So it’s good for those people who are feeling isolated and alone after losing a family member.”
For the Golf Classic, registration is $300 per player and $1,200 per foursome, but those not wishing to play can participate in the Group Golf Clinic for $150 or make a donation of any amount. Sponsorships are also available. All participants must preregister online, and the deadline is April 14. All net proceeds will go to Camp STARS. Check-in and breakfast start at 8 a.m. and the tournament begins at 10:30 a.m. Lunch and refreshments will also be provided.
For more information or to preregister, visit www.brookhavenwm.com/campstars.