History of Herbie’s — February E-News 2019

History of Herbie’s   Fox Valley Hands of Hope has developed programs based on the needs of our clients and communities in which we serve. FVHH prides itself on the […]

History of Herbie’s


Fox Valley Hands of Hope has developed programs based on the needs of our clients and communities in which we serve. FVHH prides itself on the ability to serve individuals from all walks of life and bring them together through bereavement support groups. We have successfully created a few ‘pillar’ programs, which are a well-known in the community, one of those programs — developed with the philosophy of providing bereavement care to families in a safe environment, together – is Herbie’s Friends.

Herbie’s Friends allows family members who have experienced the loss of a grandparent, mother, father, child or other significant person to share their thoughts, feelings and stories. Families with children ages 5-18 enjoy a provided meal together followed by group activities led by trained facilitators. Youth participants are welcomed into small groups by developmental age, while adults meet separately to learn about children’s grief and receive support.

The success of Herbie’s has been paramount, due to the early foundation of the program.

In early 1994, Ken and Judie Klaas began researching local communities, especially schools, and found a huge need for bereavement services for children, youth and families.  They found the need to be greatest in southern Kane and western DuPage counties, finding bereavement services to be unavailable. Armed with this knowledge, Ken and Judie recruited volunteers, whom of which all attended thirty hours of facilitator training, and began the first family bereavement group in late summer, 1994.  Most of the families were referred to Herbie’s by school social workers in the community.

Ken and Judie named this program after Ken’s brother, Herbie, who died when he was five years old.  Herbie passed after being hit by a truck while he and Ken, then three, were sledding down a hill in the snow.

Fox Valley Hands of Hope grew with the addition of “Herbie’s House” in late 1999 where the program became “Herbie’s Friends.”  This program offered weekly support groups led by professionals and extensively trained volunteers for grieving children.

Today, Herbie’s Friends sessions are held annually in Elgin, Geneva and Aurora. 

Grief is an experience that leaves an indelible mark on people’s lives.  We know that grieving affects all members of a family in different ways, and that grief may isolate family members from each other.  Children facing grief and loss issues are especially at high risk.

When a family is in crisis, the simple act of eating together, coming around the table to talk and share the day, is often not physically or emotionally possible. Herbie’s Friends always begins with a meal together. We are grateful for the many dinners for Herbie’s Friends that are donated. Sharing, talking, and getting to know each other in a safe environment adds so much to the healing process.

Through Herbie’s Friends, children come to work through the shattering experience of death, to grieve openly like children, not adults, then to move on after they have integrated the death experience into their lives.  This process is critical to a child’s healthy development.

Community support has given families in the Fox Valley area and the surrounding communities the opportunity to work through some of the most difficult times in their lives, with FVHH by their side. Since its inception 25 years ago, Herbie’s Friends has helped families contend with grief and loss issues and provided tools to help them through the grief process.


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