Grief unexpectedly inspires volunteerism for Katie Gillotti at Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton.
The Gillotti family members were busy with preparations for a new school year in 2016 when their world was rocked by a cancer diagnosis. Katie’s father, Steve, was told he had terminal cancer, and in just seven weeks, he was gone.
At 16, Katie, her 13-year-old sister and her 6-year-old brother each struggled with grief in their own ways. Along with their grandmother and mother, the Gillotti kids participated in Art Forever After, a multigenerational art-based grief group offered by Pathways of Hope that provides a place for individuals, friends and family members to make art together. “It was the first thing we did that enabled us to realize others were experiencing some of the same things,” Katie says. “It helped to connect with kids our age, and for our mother to connect with other women who have lost their husbands. We found support and also gained insights into what was going on with each other.”
After the positive experience with Art Forever After, the Gillotti children attended Camp Pathways, the annual Pathways of Hope bereavement camp for children ages 7 through 17. “It provided a really good balance,” Katie says of her experience as a camper. “There were activities focused on the grief we were all experiencing, but there were also really fun, kid things and activities, including making new friends.”
Grief Inspires Volunteerism
In 2018, Katie returned to Camp Pathways as a volunteer, helping with the arts and crafts programs. “It was fun to see how all ages could get so much out of the same craft,” she says. “They don’t start out thinking ‘what does this say about my grief?’ Still, their artwork reveals their feelings.”
Katie, now a college student majoring in education, hopes to return to Camp Pathways at some point as a “Camp Buddy,” being paired with and providing support to younger campers new to the journey of grief. Katie will always feel the loss of her father, but thanks to her Pathways of Hope experiences, she has found ways to express it and is intent on helping others who follow.
Camp Pathways is made possible through community support. Donations allow grieving children to attend Camp Pathways at no cost to them. If you are interested in giving this gift to children in the community, please visit