Boxed Up Project helps children unpack grief

By Lin Sue Flood

Most of us have difficulty accepting the death of someone we love, but that’s especially true for a child. At just 6, Milan Coraggio-Sewell didn’t understand how her best friend could suddenly vanish from her life.

“One day we were playing on the beach together in California, and then I never saw him again,” she recalls. “Being so young, I didn’t know how to express my sadness, anger and confusion. I kept all my feelings boxed up inside of me.”

That was the impetus for Milan, now 16, to help other children who hide their grief after experiencing the same kind of loss. She created her own nonprofit, The Boxed Up Project, to help kids unpack their grief and heal.

The boxes are full of items that encourage kids to open up and share their feelings. It seemed only natural that she would donate them to young children and teens receiving support from the New Song Center for Grieving Children. The nonprofit organization, a program of Hospice of the Valley, offers comforting and confidential support to families struggling with grief and loss. Special activities and support groups at six locations across the Valley are provided at no charge.

“Youth grieve very differently than adults,” says New Song Director Lisa Schmitt-Betcher. “When Milan came to us with her idea, it was clear how much she wanted to help children who are mourning. We are so inspired by her heart and vision!”

New Song collaborated with Milan, providing a mentor to help with design and content development for two age groups (5-10 and 11-17). Each box contains items like cuddly stuffed animals, art supplies, journals, picture frames, comfort and exercise cards, stickers and more. Their sturdy construction also allows children to fill them with special mementos that remind them of their loved one.

Milan, a junior at Phoenix Country Day School, has enlisted friends to help assemble and deliver hundreds of boxes. She feels honored “to bring a little light into a child’s life with her project. I want to reach as many kids as I can because I know what it feels like to have a broken heart,” she says.

For information on The Boxed Up Project, visit