2019 Sheilah A. Foundation Scholarship Recipient
Eva Frantzen was 15 when she was pulled out of her high school class, and nothing could prepare her to find out that not only had her father died, he had been shot and killed some time the night before.
Even harder is not having any answers to the questions of who did that to him, and why?
It’s a time in her life she’ll never forget, and one that can be hard to talk about. Eva recalled, “I lost my dad in 2016. He and my mom were divorced, so they lived in separate houses. We were at a soccer tournament all weekend, me and my mom and my brother. No one had heard from him for a couple of days, which wasn’t unusual. We came back from the tournament, and on Sunday, someone shot and killed him. We found out on Monday morning and don’t know many details about it.”
A freshman at Marquette University, Eva is now 18. Looking back to those high school days, said, “I had friends who had parents who had passed away, but I had never had anyone in my life who had someone in their life or a family member be a victim of homicide. So, I just felt super alone.”
Discovering Others Like Her
When her mom dropped her off at Camp Sheilah the first time, it was a bit bewildering for Eva. Up until then, everything she had done was therapy-based, but this was different, and her mom hadn’t given her much of an explanation.
Instead of any of the things she might have imagined about a camp for kids who had lost a loved one to homicide, Eva said, “Camp Sheilah was a breath of fresh air. I found myself in an environment that promoted recovery and self-improvement. I think the biggest thing was knowing that I wasn’t alone and that there were people everywhere, and people my age, too. It was a community where I felt like I was safe and able to talk about what happened without being seen as like, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy, I can’t believe that happened’ because it’s something that happened to everybody there.”
It was there that Eva shared her story with others for the first time. She remembered, “I think the overwhelming comfort and openness that I felt really stemmed from the supportive environment that I was provided over those three days. I wasn’t pressured to do or share anything that I didn’t want to, and it was precisely this lack of pressure that motivated me to push myself to be open about my dad’s death for the first time in my life.”
Learning How to Talk About it
Eva also learned that the death of her father didn’t have to weigh her down forever. She could see all those kids around her, who were dealing with the same thing she was, recognized something her other friends didn’t.
“Everyone there knew it was crazy, but they also knew the hard part wasn’t that they were killed in a homicide. It was the fact that they had died,” Eva pointed out, adding that homicide doesn’t maximize or minimize her loss. It’s a circumstance, much as cancer or heart failure is.
“I think the most important thing that I got from camp was I had never really been emotionally available or willing to talk about what happened,” she added. “I’m much more able to talk about it. I feel like it’s not something that has to hold me back.”
Being a part of small groups with others her age, some who looked really tough—as though they’d never had to deal with anything like homicide—didn’t intimidate her. Instead, it was oddly reassuring and showed her she was in a space where she could be sad and not judged for it.
As a result, Eva said, “I’m not ashamed that I do have pain and sadness about it. I know what my dad would want me to do and how he would want me to live. So, instead of just being sad about it all the time, like I was before I went to camp, I’m now enlightened, like I’m able to live a better life.”
Life Has Changed
If the Doyle family and donors were together in a room with her, Eva said, “I would just say thank you. I’m just so grateful for the foundation, for everything that they’ve done for me. I feel like my life is completely different. I can’t even put it into words. They’ve completely changed my life and have personally invested in my future. Helping pay for my college makes me feel so good, and I’m really grateful.”