Local Grief Support Group Hosts Autumn Bonfire Event

Providence Hospice of Seattle offers activity-based grief support event
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  • The bonfire activity invites those suffering a loss to honor their loved ones.

With a small bundle of sticks laced with sprigs of rosemary, the Providence Hospice of Seattle is giving adults, children and families a safe—and meaningful—opportunity to grieve the loss of a loved one.

During their twice-yearly autumnal bonfire event, which began 12 years ago, the Providence Hospice of Seattle invites all to participate in honoring those they’ve lost to a serious or terminal illness.

“Each of the events that we do is built is around bringing folks togethers in community with one another that have had something similar in their life that’s happened,” says Beverly Goldsmith, coordinator of the Safe Crossings Children’s Grief Support Program of Providence Hospice of Seattle. “We give them an opportunity to honor the person in their life that they’ve lost.”

In addition to s’mores, hot dogs and a warm fire, the event, held October 22, is an activity-based grief support celebration, where attendees are invited to create something to honor their loved one; in this case, the activity includes paper heart messages tucked inside bundles of kindling and rosemary—the herb of remembrance—that are later put into the fire during an evening group-circle ceremony.

The event has been attended in past years by as many as 75 people, but no matter the number of participants or their ages, Goldsmith says it has proved a meaningful experience for all.

“The bonfires have just become a part of what we do,” Goldsmith says. “It’s all about the community, of coming together and also about adults being able to see their children having fun and being happy. That’s what they deserve, to just have opportunities to have continued happiness in their life. It’s one of those events that we can offer that really focuses on that, but at the same time, gives them opportunity to do something very poignant. It’s always a beautiful event that families can do together, regardless of if 20 people—or 70—show up.”

The bonfire events happens in both fall and winter at Alki Beach in West Seattle. Families, adults, children and youth of all ages are invited to attend. Goldsmith says that if a large group of teens attend, they will have their own separate fire. Providence counselors even read children a grief-related book before the activity.

“What I hear from some of the adults is how much it makes them feel even less alone, like they’re not the only ones out there that are facing these kinds of things,” Goldsmith says. “It brings them hope to see kids having fun together that have been through things like this. It’s not just the fire, and the marshmallows, and the hot dogs; it’s this camaraderie that develops with the adults and the kids. They always say it’s so meaningful for them.”

Along with periodic events, Providence Hospice of Seattle offers a variety of grief support services, including in-home and in-office counseling, workshops, bereavement groups, children and teen camps, and more, all at no cost.

“I know I speak for myself and all the counselors when I say that it’s really a blessing for us to be able to have this opportunity,” Goldsmith says. “For us to have the honor of being invited to offer whatever guidance we can offer them and support, it nourishes our own souls.”

The Autumn Bonfire event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 22, 2016, at Alki Beach Park in West Seattle. The group will gather at a fire pit south of the Bathhouse, 2701 Alki Ave. SW.

GoCstudio’s Floating Sauna Sends Winter Blues Adrift

GoCstudio’s Floating Sauna Sends Winter Blues Adrift

GoCstudio’s floating sauna is a one-of-a-kind space for blowing off steam
Architect Jon Gentry climbs the custom aluminum ladder of the ‘wa_sauna’, goCstudio’s outdoor floating sauna, as Tony Kim back flips off the upper diving deck. Inside, Lydia Ramsey enjoys the heat of the sauna which makes that icy water feel sensational

Restrictions imposed by permits, budgets and difficult building sites can make it tough for designers to create something truly innovative, but Seattle-based architecture firm GoCstudio (gocstudio.com) doesn’t shy away from a challenge. That’s what prompted founders Jon Gentry and Aimée O’Carroll to try their hand at building Wa_sauna: a floating sauna currently docked on Lake Union just below the University Bridge.

Clad with spruce wood planks, the interior of the ‘wa_sauna’ features an upper and lower bench for reclining and a wood stove


The project—built with crowdfunding from more than 500 donations and in partnership with design/build students in the University of Washington’s Master of Architecture program—is a 12-foot-tall, 4,500-pound shed with an interior wood-burning stove, spruce-finished interior, an electric trolling motor and ebony-stained wooden exterior. The team was challenged to balance aesthetics with the utilitarian requirements of boatbuilding. “We quickly discovered that our initial concept—having the sauna anchored in the middle of the lake—wasn’t possible because of permitting,” explains Gentry. Instead, he and O’Carroll shifted their focus toward building a barge-type boat powered by an electric motor. “This allowed us so much flexibility in terms of location, use and interaction with other boats and kayaks on the water,” Gentry says. 

The ebony-stained plywood exteriors frame slot windows, so users enjoy outdoor views while sweating their blues away inside the sauna

Completed in 2015, Wa_sauna spent the summer of 2016 cruising between Portage Bay and Union Bay, and hosting events at Westward restaurant on the north side of Lake Union. GoCstudio will offer more public events this year to give more people the chance to experience the sauna. And while it’s not for sale, Gentry says you could certainly commission one as the experience of using the sauna is unlike any other. “The best part is being out on the water,” Gentry says. “It’s a very active experience; climb up to the roof deck, cold plunge into the lake and have a swim. Then climb back inside to warm up.” And how does it fare in one of Seattle’s storms? “We tie Wa_sauna up to the dock if it’s really stormy. It’s meant for calm, slow outings, not really for fighting the wind and wake from a big storm. Rain isn’t a problem, though.” Rain or shine, he says, “It’s quite nice.” 

A marine-grade plywood deck surrounds the sauna box, propelled by an electric trolling motor on the bow

See where the Wa_sauna’s next port will be at gocstudio.com/wa_sauna.