A Sweet Day at the Zoo


This month’s connection event was the seventh to be held at Brookfield Zoo, a venue that has become an ICFF fall tradition. Sixty military family members came together for a day of unity and camaraderie, fun and remembrance.

The day kicked off with a bingo-style scavenger hunt, with attendees encouraged to get to know one another by finding members who possessed unique traits; laughs and tidbits of odd information quickly permeated the room.

Rush Road Home again hosted their popular memory jar session, helping family members represent their feelings with glitter, stars, hearts, and well-chosen words.

A new partner, Kids Rank, helped mostly-younger participants enjoy an opportunity to construct and launch something. The first was marshmallow catapults, follow – after a quick clean-up – by paper “space shuttles,” one of which even managed to get lodged in the ceiling. Also popular, as always, were the golden retrievers, who visited with their LCC Kare 9 Military Ministry veteran handlers. Trained as service dogs, these beautiful creatures allowed one person after another to pet, hug, and generally love on them throughout the day.

Older family members took part in roundtable discussions focused on expressing grief, empathizing with others, and remembering those they had lost. One was “An Important Possession,” which involved bringing a possession talking about how it had been prized by the loved one. ICFF founding partner Army Survivor Outreach Services hosted an open discussion that posed questions about the kinds of resources, activities, and support that families want – trying, as always, to better understand how to live up their “SOS” name.

A quiet room was set aside for the Veterans History Project. The project, an initiative of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, works to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of U.S. wartime veterans. Families were able to record a living testament to their loved one, with the knowledge that their tale will be safeguarded for future generations.

At the final session, ice cream sandwiches, cones, and popsicles made for a sweet ending to the day.

See the photo gallery

August 29, 2018

See all articles