Kate Atwood was 12 when her mother died three decades ago.
At age 22, she decided to channel her experience with grief into something positive, establishing an organization that would go on to counsel thousands of children dealing with similar loss.
Now, the work of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Kate’s Club is receiving national recognition that Atwood said could bring attention to their cause, which has already drawn support from Atlanta philanthropy.
“This award stands as a profound testament to the unwavering support of Atlanta’s community, which has dedicated itself to nurturing and fostering the growth of Kate’s Club over two decades,” she said through a spokesperson.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the 21st U.S. surgeon general, is awarding her organization with the Surgeon General’s Medallion, a rare honor. Kate’s Club’s leaders have been invited to a Sept. 18 celebration concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., along with five other new medallion recipients.
Kate’s Club offers free social and therapeutic programs at its own facilities and in schools and other locations.
It says it has served 20,000 people, half of them in the last three years.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a major expansion, leading the group to double in size. It went from a metro Atlanta service to one available in other parts of the state, such as Albany and Brunswick. Services are even available in the juvenile justice system.
The expansion occurred during the two-year tenure of Lisa Aman as executive director. It’s not enough, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year.
“If every child and family who needed support knew about it and asked for it,” said Aman, who lost a brother at a young age, “it would most likely overwhelm the current resources available.”
The organization says 1 in 12 children nationally will experience the death of a parent or sibling, but that rate has been higher — 1 in 11 — in Georgia, which was hit particularly hard by the pandemic.