Florida Everblades player Hunter Garlent is building connections with children of Valerie’s House, while at the same addressing his own grief. 24-year-old Garlent visited the organization’s Fort Myers grieving center located at 1762 Fowler Street on January 21 and shared his experience of losing his father six years ago to a heart attack.
“I have never been embarrassed about losing a parent, and you shouldn’t either,” Garlent told the children. “It is good to keep their memories alive and find someone to talk to about your feelings. Don’t keep it bottled up inside.”
Garlent met with a group of about 40 middle and high schoolers at Valerie’s House who’ve also suffered the loss of a parent. Garlent answered questions from the group about how he stayed strong when he was sad and how his father’s death has motivated him to be successful in hockey, a sport his father also played.
“Hunter’s presence during our group nights has enabled children to see that if he can rise out of his pain and loss, maybe they can too,” said Valerie’s House Founder and CEO Angela Melvin. “He’s a big deal to them and they listen to him.”
Garlent said he wants to provide opportunities for Valerie’s House families to attend Florida Everblades games regularly and go behind the scenes at Hertz Arena, where the Blades play. Garlent is going to be visiting several Valerie’s House group nights over the month, and is hopeful to become a volunteer and work directly with the children he identifies with.
“I’ve really grown from my grief,” Garlent told the children. “We learn to cherish every moment we have with the people we love.”