By Raetta Holdman

DENVER (CBS4) – Among all the families enjoying Play Ball Park during the MLB All-Star Game festivities in Denver, you’ll find Julie Allen and her two sons, Blake, 13, and Ty, 6. For Julie and the boys, this outing comes courtesy of TAPS, or Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors.

(credit: CBS)

Julie credits the group with getting her on the road to healing after her brother, an Air Force first lieutenant, died in the service a decade ago.

“He was my best friend growing up,” she said. “He was just an amazing person and had a huge love for his country. Service was at the top of his priority list.”

John Alley was a graduate of the Air Force Academy and was in Florida for pilot training. He had just married the woman his sister describes as the love of his life and they were expecting their first child when he died.

John Alley

Air Force 1st Lt. John Alley (credit: TAPS)

“I had no idea what it would be like to lose a brother so young. He was 26,” Julie recalled.

“Immediately after someone in the military passes away, you are given a flood of information of support groups, but often you’re not ready for it because you’re still in shock.”

That’s where TAPS comes in. It’s an organization that offers support specific groups like siblings, spouses and parents.

For Julie the revelation came when her brother’s widow insisted Julie go to a TAPS seminar a year after his death.

“I just thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t just talk about it yet. It’s so close to me, it’s so precious.’ She said, ‘Let’s just try it.'”

So try they did. “It was phenomenal. The minute I walked in I felt surrounded with support and love and healing and peace.”

Julie said that’s when her journey of healing began. In fact, she said TAPS helped her entire family move through the grief.

And it wasn’t just that first seminar. TAPS supports those surviving families for years, even reaching out to Julie to help celebrate receiving one of the MLB Legacy grants during this year’s All-Star Game.

Julie said her brother would have loved the opportunity to experience the fun of Play Ball Park with his child and his nephews.

(credit: CBS)

That’s precisely the goal of the organization. Diana Hosford heads up the Sports & Entertainment programs. “We create a way for survivors to celebrate their loved ones lives and service with the teams they used to cheer for when their loved one was alive.”

“It’s joyful, it’s connection with other survivors but the importance of the survivors always knowing their loved one will be remembered is critical.”

Hosford also said TAPS works because it offers peer counseling, so siblings help siblings, spouses help spouses, parents help parents.

She also said receiving the Legacy grant seems particularly fitting.

“We’re all about the living legacy, we are the living legacy of service and sacrifice.”

“TAPS as a whole really makes sure that survivors never feel alone. TAPS is always there to walk the journey with them.”

For Julie, that support is invaluable.

“That support is following us through a lifetime of raising our families and all the things that we would have done together. He would have loved to be an event like this so the fact that TAPS is still reaching out and saying ‘We’ve got another event to support you’ … it touches my heart every time.”

Raetta Holdman