The Sun News

150 turn out as Compassionate Friends’ chapter holds first Walk to Remember

BYRON -- Almost 150 people took part in the Middle Georgia chapter of The Compassionate Friends’ first ever Walk to Remember on Saturday.

The Compassionate Friends provides grief support for parents, siblings and others after the death of a child.

The Middle Georgia chapter has been active for 35 years.

Karla Chidester, local Compassionate Friends chairperson and co-chair of the walk, expressed the group’s essential purpose from her own experience when she told those assembled, “I wouldn’t be here today without Compassionate Friends walking with me through my loss.”

Chidester said she lost her son, Mikhail Anthony Blair Stewart -- Mickey for short -- at two days old.

Others offered remembrances of children throughout the day before the group as well as more informally one-on-one and in groups.

Stewart Earnest, walk co-chairperson and former chapter chairman, recalled his son, Matthew, who was killed nine years ago in an automobile accident while traveling home from college.

“If there’s anything lower than losing a child to death, I don’t want to know it,” he said.

Yet, Earnest said, if it must be, the ongoing pain is worth the opportunity to have known and loved those who have died.

He spoke of the awkwardness of conversations after the deaths of children and the importance of support.

“We’re here today to celebrate those who have gone on,” he said. “They blessed our lives, didn’t they? I’m sorry for the reason we’re here but glad for the help we provide one another. People come to us and talk about everything but our child, but really (our children) live. They are remembered.”

Held at North Peach Park in Byron, walkers heard a list of 45 loved-ones remembered, viewed a display of photos, walked a portion of the park’s pathways, enjoyed a pot-luck lunch and celebrated with the release of multicolored balloons.

They also raised funds for the chapter’s work and outreach programs.

Chidester said the walk raised approximately $2,300 for the chapter.

“I’m in awe of the folks who came out in support of our first annual Walk to Remember,” she said. “Most important to me was remembering lives taken from us too soon. We were blessed with a beautiful day for more than 40 bereaved families to join us in remembering.”

The Middle Georgia chapter of The Compassionate Friends meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month, except November and December, at Byron United Methodist Church. The group sponsors a candlelight remembrance service each December. Information on the chapter is available from Chidester at 478- 954-4592 or at by searching Find Support and Local Chapters.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at