To local teen Milan Coraggio-Sewell, life is about giving back and helping her peers navigate tough experiences. During her childhood, Coraggio-Sewell lost loved ones and had to figure out how to process her emotions and heal. Because of her own experiences, she created an organization with a mission of helping other youth process their grief called the Boxed Up Project.
At the Boxed Up Project, Coraggio-Sewell and her team of volunteers create grief toolboxes to help kids and teens work through and express their feelings.
“My favorite aspect about the Boxed Up Project is our mission: To help kids unpack their
grief,” she says. “Given my own personal experiences with grief at a young age and the struggles I experienced with the coping process, I am so grateful and honored that years later I can help kids going through the same emotions I experienced.”
Each box created by the organization contains carefully selected items—a photo album, stuffed animal, books, a journal, art supplies, and more—alongside a kid-friendly instructional guide to help the recipient focus on positive feelings and unpack their grief. The boxes are put together with help and advice from accredited grief experts, are unisex, and are separated by age groups (ages 5-11 and 12-17). Each box contains resources for parents and caregivers as well, and are donated to organizations that work with families experiencing loss. Since being founded last year, Coraggio-Sewell and her supporters—many of whom are fellow teens—have donated more than 500 boxes.
“What also makes our grief toolboxes stand out is the fact that the boxes for kids going through grief are created by kids who have experienced grief of their own,” Coraggio-Sewell says. “I think the youth-to-youth connection is so important. When kids know this is a gift from another kid who empathizes with their situation and wants to give them comfort, we feel that makes a positive impact.”
Boxed Up Project has donated boxes to multiple organizations, including New Song Center for Grieving Families, Stepping Stones of Hope, Billy’s Place, Ryan House, Amanda Hope Foundation, and more. Looking toward the future, Coraggio-Sewell and her team are working on making sure the boxes reach even more children and teens in need.
“We are currently working on video guides that live in a QR code in each box,” she explains. “The video guides will contain instructional clips from different grief counselors and experts explaining how to use the items in each box. Our hope with these videos is to help families work through their boxes together at home. We also are working on translating our boxes to Spanish.
“I know if I had a resource like our boxes when I was younger, it would have helped me so much
and I would have learned to process my feelings in a much healthier way,” Coraggio-Sewell adds. “We are all truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to make a positive impact in a child’s life.”