DSP widow raising funds for counselors who helped daughter through her grief

Adam Duvernay
The News Journal

After the murder of state police Cpl. Stephen Ballard in 2017, the little girl Ballard had accepted as his own kept a secret: She wanted to find and kill the man responsible for his death.

Then just 5, Abigail Cummings had kept those thoughts hidden even from her own mother until some one-on-one time with a grief counselor. Ballard's killer was already dead, and it was okay for Abigail to be sad. 

"Imagine if she had to carry that with her and what that could turn into if she didn't get the proper help," said Louise Cummings, Abigail's mom and Ballard's widow.

Louise Cummings, wife of slain Delaware State Police trooper Cpl. Stephen Ballard, helps put together luminaries with fellow counselors at Supporting Kidds, a center for grieving children. The memorial bags with candles are being sold to raise money for the Pathways to Healing event at Constitution Yard on Friday, June 7th to raise money for restoring individual and group support for the organization.

Abigail kept going to see her counselor at Hockessin's Supporting Kidds until this year. 

She can't anymore, not the way that's helpful for her. The reason, as it is for many, is money.

Supporting Kidds, a nonprofit family grief counseling service, suspended its one-on-one child counseling in March when dollars dried up. It now only can fund group sessions.

Cummings hopes she can help so other grieving children get the same care Abigail did.

"The program was really able to help her," Cummings said. "My goal is to help raise this money and get these kids back into individual counseling."

Just to restart individual grief counseling and carry it through the end of the year will take $50,000. On Friday, Cummings and Supporting Kidds will host a fundraiser in Wilmington at Constitution Yards where they hope gifts small and large will be just the beginning. 

A luminary with the name of slain Delaware State Police trooper Cpl. Stephen Ballard will be released at the Pathways to Healing event at Constitution Yards on Friday, June 7th to raise money for restoring individual and group support at Supporting Kidds, a center for grieving children.

The family-friendly event will begin at 7 p.m. in which electric candle-lit memorials — $10 a piece or $25 for three — will "Light the Pathway" to healing in support of the nonprofit. The casual, meet-and-greet event will also have activities for children. 

Friday's goal is raising $20,000 toward restarting individual counseling at Supporting Kidds. Cummings said they're already halfway to being halfway there. 

The event raised $5,000 on its own, then Dr. Sandra Gibney at St. Francis Hospital promised to match donations up to $10,000, Cummings said. 

Supporting Kidds merged into the nonprofit Children and Families First last year. Individual counseling services were suspended in March because donations that had supported them diminished over time, said CFF Chief Strategy Officer Kirsten Olson.

Olson said she's hopeful community activity like Cummings' fundraiser may help inspire legislators to reinstate some of the state funding Supporting Kidds had recently lost.

Louise Cummings, the widow of State Police Corporal Stephen Ballard, who was killed in the line of duty in 2017 speaks at the 58th Annual Delaware Governor's Prayer Breakfast in May 2018 in Dover.

"The group and the individual programming really work hand-in-hand," said Supporting Kidds Program Manager Nicole Smith. "When we've lost the ability to help them in an individual way, we've lost a ton of families."

Smith said the mission is focused on children, but there's a benefit for whole families. She said each person who comes to them needs help in a unique, personal way. 

"Grief can look so many different ways. Most of our families are coming to us through a loss," Smith said. "Grieving is so personal. Everyone has their own grief journey."

To donate visit www.delcf.org/donations/supportingkidds

Contact Adam Duvernay at (302) 319-1855 or aduvernay@delawareonline.com

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