When Connie Henshaw of Henrico, Virginia, lost her father to brain cancer during her freshman year, she felt completely alone in her grief. Now, the senior natural resources conservation major has channeled that grief into action by taking steps to establish a Virginia Tech student chapter of Actively Moving Forward, a national organization dedicated to offering student-led support to those suffering the loss or illness of a loved one.

Professor Dean Stauffer, who dealt with his own loss during his undergraduate years, serves as the staff sponsor for the group, which will count on him as a resource for university issues such as bereavement policies and private counseling.

Though the group’s membership is currently fairly small, Henshaw is hopeful that more will join as it becomes better known on campus. Actively Moving Forward’s national website reports that between 35 percent and 48 percent of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last year. Weekly, closed-door discussion sessions serve as the members’ main outlet, while events like group outings and community service projects offer an opportunity for members to bond in a more positive environment.

“My main goal this year is to make AMF a permanent organization on campus,” Henshaw said, acknowledging that her time in Blacksburg is limited. “Yet, I will find the club successful if just one person is helped through the grieving process while in school. Students should know that this club is here on campus and that they can come any time. In the spring, I hope to find someone who is just as passionate about AMF as I am to take over the organization in the coming years.”