Keller lending helping hand Dan Leberfeld

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller lost his father on Feb. 27, 1998 when Keller was just 13 years old. Understanding the difficulties of growing up following the death of a parent, Keller is now offering his time and services to Manitou Camps Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Camp Manitou and based in the northeast.

Manitou Camps Foundation offers a variety of programs, including a popular one-week camp called Manitou Experience, which facilitates safe spaces where kids can enjoy a full summer camp experience along with an opportunity to work through their grief, break the isolation they may feel with their non-grieving peers, and have fun at a weekly camp each summer. It’s an opportunity for the kids to meet and bond with other kids who share similar situations and losses.

“I can totally relate to what these kids are going through,” Keller said. “It’s tough on a young person when they lose a parent, obviously. It was devastating to our family when my father died, and I would have loved a place like Manitou Experience when I was growing up. I’m looking forward to a long-lasting relationship with Manitou Experience and helping as many of these kids as I can.”

Under the guidance of professional bereavement staff and caring volunteers, campers and group members have the opportunity to share stories and remember the one who died, while exploring skills that will help them in their journeys through grief.

Keller will be speaking at a Manitou Experience fundraiser in New York City on Thursday, May 19. The annual fundraiser, along with a handful of other events and individual donations, generates the funding for Manitou Experience. Keller is also donating Jets items for the silent auction that evening. The fundraiser, titled “Experience Spring in New York,” begins at 6:00 p.m. at the MPE Penthouse at 432 W. 45th Street.

He is also using his social networks to help spread the word about Manitou Experience and his involvement. Nearly 8,300 fans follow Keller on his Facebook page (facebook.com/dustinkeller) and he also has close to 48,000 twitter followers (@dustinkeller81).

Keller will also be featured in a documentary that is being produced by Manitou Experience. Details about the documentary will be forthcoming.