Heroic Journey Participant, Former Intern, Co-Chair of the Emerging Leaders Network

Man hiking in featured photo for Colorado nonprofit helping kids who have lost parents

Andrew experienced the loss of his mother at a very young age, followed by the loss of his father when he was in college. Andrew participated in a former Judi’s House program, Heroic Journey, following his loss. After college, Andrew went on to earn his masters degree in psychology and currently works as a therapist at Mental Health Partners in Boulder. Andrew is currently the co-chair of the Judi’s House Emerging Leaders Network.

Judi’s House: After the loss of your father, how did you come to find Judi’s House and the Heroic Journey program?

Andrew Crumpler: I was 19 when I lost my father and was really struggling. My stepmom recommended I look into Heroic Journey which was a weeklong program in partnership with Outward Bound. The program focused on wilderness therapy and counseling from Judi’s House staff. I was really impacted by wilderness therapy, it changed my trajectory and helped me find resources to handle my own grief.  Upon completing the program, I realized wilderness therapy was something I really enjoyed and might want to consider as a career down the road. I found a wilderness therapy program near where I was going to college in Virginia and volunteered there for a while. But I quickly realized I would need to get a master’s degree to pursue a career in the field. 

After graduating from college, I earned a scholarship to the University of Denver for my master’s program. I soon learned that Judi’s House sponsors an internship program for graduate students and was accepted into the program during my second year of graduate school. I loved working with the Judi’s House families and the personal connection that I felt with Judi’s House and the organization’s work.

Can you tell us a bit more about your experience as an intern at Judi’s House?

The internship exposed me to a lot more clinical work. My first year as an intern was more focused on supporting the after-school program. I worked on lesson programming and learned how to structure a program.  During my second year I began working more with families.  As an intern, I was very supported by the other therapists and staff at Judi’s House. I had a lot of guidance and was able to eventually take more of a leadership role and work with some of my own clients and families. 

Now that you have earned your masters and are working as a therapist, do you remain connected to Judi’s House?

Yes.  After my internship ended, Judi’s House contacted me and asked if I’d like to be a part of their Emerging Leaders Network. I am now the co-chair of the committee, and we lead a group of young professionals dedicated to raising awareness, fundraising, and providing resources for grieving children and families. We create opportunities for people to attend fundraising and social events, meet other young professionals, volunteer to bring the community together, and find connections – all in support of Judi’s House.

It has been really cool to learn about all the different sides of Judi’s House and the JAG Institute, from research, to the clinical side, to friendraising and fundraising. 

What do you think makes Judi’s House so unique?

I love the whole-family approach of the program. Judi’s House supports grieving children, but the program is also set up in a way that gives the parents and caregivers time to do their own work while their kids get help. Grief and loss create lots of stress on caregivers because they have the dual role of supporting their kids and trying to manage their own grief process. This can be especially difficult for parents who have lost a child. In addition, Judi’s House takes a very holistic approach to counseling. The program is not solely focused on individual counseling, it really addresses the needs of the whole family. 

Further, through the JAG Institute, Judi’s House is really leading the charge on research and trying to understand all facets of the challenges families face when they experience loss. They really go beyond the walls of the “house” and work in the community with community-based grief programs. For example, they can meet with kids at schools who may not be able to get to Judi’s House in the evening. 

What do you value most from your experiences at Judi’s House as an intern and volunteer?

The key takeaway from my experiences at Judi’s House is that it gave me confidence in my abilities as a counselor. I feel confident in my ability to approach situations and how I handle myself, especially when I feel a connection to someone else’s story.

What impact do you see with other families served by Judi’s House? 

There is always a moment of big reconnection at the end of the programs. During Pathfinders we separate individuals by age groups and caregivers from kids. Then caregivers and children come together for their big quilt ceremony at the end. It really is about reconnecting the family unit. A death can be such a huge distancer amongst family members. But when you see families come together at the end of their 10-week program, you see connections re-made and hope returning in their lives.

What is your hope for the future of Judi’s House?

I would love for the organization to be able to expand beyond Colorado. Judi’s House is already quickly expanding services within our state, and I hope that the new, larger facility will allow them to reach more people within Colorado. But the CBEM model demonstrates that the need for family grief support is not just local to Colorado. There are so many families in other communities that are experiencing grief and need support. I hope Judi’s House can continue to expand their reach and impact.

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