The Luke Hahn Foundation

The Luke Hahn Foundation

On July 5, 2010, Dana Hahn’s life as she knew it was shattered. Her son, Luke, and husband, Kraig, were involved in an accidental propane tank explosion. Her husband sustained severe burns on 83 percent of his body that kept him in the hospital until Christmas Eve of that year, but their son was killed in the explosion. He was just two days shy of his thirteenth birthday. But somehow, with the support of her family, friends, and community, Hahn was able to find the strength to channel the horrific loss into something positive.

Now, she’s determined to help others begin to piece their lives back together following a loss. Although she was still overwhelmed with her own grief after the tragic death of her 12-year-old son, she noticed that Luke’s friends and younger cousins were also finding it hard to stay afloat while they grieved for him. “They were really having such a difficult time and really struggling,” she says. After researching children’s bereavement and realizing support centers for them were over half an hour away from their hometown of Pen Argyl, Hahn began to wonder how she could help them.

“Children are the forgotten grievers,” Hahn says. She remembers that after Luke’s death, many people reached out to her specifically and apologized for her loss, unintentionally forgetting the enormous loss also faced by the couple’s two daughters.

The grief of children, though often overlooked, isn’t uncommon. “One in five children will lose someone significant in their lives before they are 18,” she says. “We need to be aware that children and teenagers need to have support and help during the
grieving process.”

While thankfully the memories of our loved ones always remain with us in our hearts, unfortunately our grief can and often does as well.

After the outpouring of support from her loved ones and her community, she thought about how vital their caring actions and words had been to her when she needed them most. It was then that Hahn realized that this crucial support was exactly how she could help others, too. She wanted to make sure that everyone, especially children, would have a safe place to go where they knew they could find support.

To honor the memory of Luke and the kindness of her community, she founded the Luke Hahn Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers support groups and bereavement services. The support groups, which last 10 weeks and occur in the spring and fall, are organized into age-appropriate children and adult groups. Last year, the support groups helped 52 children and 20 adults through their grief.

Recalling how Luke’s school friends had difficulty coping after his death, she started “The Friendly Hearts Club,” a school-based support group that meets once per week during the school year to focus on grieving students. The in-school group provides students with a safe space to talk about their loss, form friendships with other students who understand the difficult life circumstances they are facing, and teaches them tools to cope with their grief.

The Luke Hahn Foundation holds one major fundraising event every June: a truck and car show, in honor of Luke’s love of all things on wheels. The event takes place in Weona Park, Pen Argyl, and is a day of fun, local vendors, and food, concluding with a butterfly release ceremony. Proceeds from the show go towards a college or trade school scholarship for a graduating high school senior with a learning disability, as Luke was diagnosed with a learning disability in second grade, as well as future programming for the non-profit.

This year, Hahn is starting a support group for parents of grieving children. She hopes this group will help give parents what they need to support their children at home. Next year, she plans to offer a lecture, “Supporting the Grieving Student in the Classroom,” to teachers and administrators in surrounding school districts so that they can better support children at school who have suffered a loss.

And that isn’t all she has planned. “When you’ve had a recent loss, it’s hard to get through the holidays sometimes,” Hahn says. This December, the organization will hold a “Night of Lights” event at a park in Pen Argyl in remembrance of those who have been lost, but will never be forgotten.

While thankfully the memories of our loved ones always remain with us in our hearts, unfortunately our grief can and often does as well. “Grief doesn’t just go away after time,” Hahn says. “It stays with you, and children may even take it into adulthood.”

When a family suffers a loss together, often members will grieve in different ways. Hahn discovered pockets of solace in journaling, which is a coping tool that helped her so immensely that she started the “Luke Project,” an initiative by the foundation to give away free journals to those who are interested in using it as a coping method.

However, no matter how you cope, Hahn reminds parents that it’s important to keep communication open and to remember that both children and adults need help while they grieve. “Open up a dialogue and talk about what’s going on,” she says. “Don’t make the loss a taboo issue around the house.”

If you or a loved one is grieving and would like to participate in the Luke Hahn Foundation’s support groups or events, please visit lukehahnfoundation.org or e-mail Dana Hahn at [email protected] The foundation is always looking for volunteers.

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