WEST POINT - A group formed earlier this year for grieving parents is growing and has attracted the attention of a nationally known songwriter and musician.
Alan Pedersen of Colorado will speak to the Compassionate Friends of Beaver Creek Thursday, and the public is encouraged to attend.
Melissa Woods, co-founder of the local chapter of the Compassionate Friends, first saw Pedersen speak while attending a friends support group in Beaver, Pa. Pedersen was not in attendance, but the group showed one of his videos and Woods was impressed.
"It really sparked my interest," she said.
Shortly after she learned he would be touring in Ohio, so she and co-founder Connie Welsh traveled to Port Clinton, Ohio to see him in person.
The two told Pedersen about the group and asked him to visit. It turned out he was already scheduled to travel through Ohio on his way to New York, Woods said.
Formed in April of this year, the group offers support for parents who have lost children to accidents, mental illness or other health problems.
Pedersen and his wife Denise travel the country playing concerts and encouraging parents to find hope and healing after the loss of their children. This is the last year for their Angels Across the USA Tour, and according to their website, www.angelsacrosstheusa.com, the van they have used the last few years will be given to Newtown, Conn. in honor of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.
According to his website, www.everashleymusic.com, Mr. Pedersen performs more than 100 concerts each year and is a former Nashville writer. He lost a daughter in a 2001 automobile accident and his wife lost a son in a vehicle accident in 2004.
"He writes music to how he feels. Obviously if a parent has lost a child, it is very heartfelt," Woods said.
Woods lost her daughter Ceara Burns in 2011, when the vehicle she was in crashed on Dyke road. Welsh's son, Josh Carlin, was also in the vehicle and did not survive.
The women joined the support group after recognizing a need in the area. The first meeting was held on May 20, and meetings are at the Rogers Community Auction Restaurant.
On Thursday the group will get together at the West Point Church of the Nazarene for a free community dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. Pedersen will be speaking and singing at 7 p.m.
Woods said the church offered to host the dinner in their honor after seeing one of the group's fliers at a yard sale. The church hosts a benefit dinner once a month.
"All donations they receive from their dinner they are giving to Compassionate Friends of Beaver Creek," she said.
The dinner and after-dinner event is by donation only.
The Compassionate Friends is an international non-profit organization geared toward helping parents deal with the grief that can only be felt by the loss of a child.