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Coming out of her shell after tragic loss

Outings with her peers encourage a reserved 10-year-old to open up and reconnect with others after the death of her mother.

August 08, 2003|Shane Nelson | Times Staff Writer

About 30 family members and friends helped Tyler Addison celebrate her 10th birthday last month, but her parents couldn't attend.

Tyler was used to her dad missing big events in her life -- until she was 3, he spent months away at professional football training camps -- but the fifth-grader's mom had been there for everything until last Christmas.

In early December, her 32-year-old mother died shortly after giving birth to her namesake, Faye.

After his wife's death, Bryan Addison cut short his undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii and moved his young family back to their hometown of Los Angeles so that his three children could be near their large extended family.

Tyler acknowledged the last eight months have been difficult, though family members say she doesn't talk much about her mother or her feelings. They said she keeps a positive attitude and is always happy to help out with her infant sister.

"She's like a little mother," said Carol Scott, associate pastor of Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Inglewood. "She has a kind of nurturing aspect to her personality like her mom had."

In July, Tyler's dad returned to Hawaii to attend summer school to complete a bachelor's degree in sociology by June. Brian Jr., 3, and Faye accompanied him. But Tyler stayed with her aunt so she could go to camp.

Even before her mother died, Tyler was reserved, especially around strangers. A visit to camp last year with children from her church helped draw her out. "She made friends and became a little more outgoing," Scott said. "Even the kids that came from here, she got to know a little better. You could just see a difference."

Her father wanted to expand on the progress Tyler made last year, so she returned this week to Camp El Camino Pines in Frazier Park thanks to the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Fund. "She wasn't going to do anything here but sit around," he said.

"I appreciate that the kids can get out and enjoy themselves and learn a little bit about how the world works." She will join her father at the end of the month.

Tyler may not talk about her mother, but she said she thinks about her every day. "I know that she is in my heart," said the little girl, who has the same middle name, Kapikookalani, as her mother.

"I know that I am going to see her another day, and if I try to do my best, she's proud of me."


About 11,000 children will go to camp this summer thanks to the $1.4 million raised last year.

The annual fund-raising campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a fund of the McCormick Tribune Foundation, which this year will match the first $1 million in contributions at 50 cents on the dollar.

Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call (213) 237-5771. To make credit card donations, visit www.latimes .com/summercamp. To send checks, use the attached coupon. Do not send cash.

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