As the end of the year approaches, I’d like to take a moment to say thank you. It has been an incredible year of growth for The Dougy Center and we would not be here without you. So, from the bottom of my heart and before I write another word, I have to stop and say… thank you.
Thanks to you, 1,729 grieving children, teens, young adults and their adult family members received orientation and grief support group services.This represents a more than 10% increase in our services in one year!
Thanks to you, four new grief support groups were started including two Family Nights for families with both elementary aged children and teenagers – eliminating the need for these families to attend two separate support groups.
And thanks to you, we continue to provide biweekly grief support to 450 children and 300 parents each month without ever charging grieving families a fee for service.
And those are just a few of the many, many reasons I could thank you today. Your support has meant that hundreds of children get the support they need after the death of a parent or sibling. One of these families is the Boyce Family. Steven Boyce and his two sons, Jackson (11 years old) and Alton (8 years old), began attending The Dougy Center last year when his wife and highschool sweetheart, Mary, died after a long and difficult battle with colon cancer.
Being born and raised in Portland, Steven knew about The Dougy Center. Mary’s family had been patients of pediatrician Dr. Alan Chappell, our founder’s husband, for their entire lives.
“Mary was sick for a long time. She was diagnosed at Stage 4 in 2009. In the years before her death, Jackson and Alton were amazing and strong but, after she died, I immediately thought about The Dougy Center and how they were going to need support.”
Steven brought his sons to a Dougy Center orientation in the fall of 2013 and, thanks to the increased space in our new home, Jackson and Alton were placed together in a grief support group for 6-12 year olds. “I would hate it if I couldn’t be in the same group as my big brother,” says 8 year old Alton.
The Dougy Center has been especially important for Jackson, who struggled in school after his mom’s death. His dad shared that “Jackson is very sensitive and had a hard time with his emotions after Mary’s death. Kids at his school didn’t understand what he was going through. He was essentially bullied all the time for crying about his mom.”
“Other kids understand what I’m going through in my Dougy Center group.” says Jackson. “I like to have fun on the playground but it’s also good to get your emotions out – happiness, sadness, anger…. The last time we were here, I went ALL OUT on the punching bag.”
Healthy emotional expression is one of the most impactful benefits that your contribution to The Dougy Center is providing to grieving kids every day. Your gift today directly supports our Grief Support Group programs – making possible that safe space where grief is okay, where play is okay, and where there are other kids who understand. At The Dougy Center, no child feels bullied for expressing their feelings of grief.
Grieving parents find support at The Dougy Center too. Steven shared, “The Dougy Center is one of the only places where I can talk openly about my grief – the good, the bad and the ugly. And no one judges me for it.”
Lastly, whether locally, nationally or internationally, The Dougy Center’s mission is this: to provide a safe space for children, teens, and their parents to forge their new path after the death of a loved one. At The Dougy Center, we have the privilege of walking with them along that path. I hope you will join us as we walk alongside grieving children and families this holiday season. As you might imagine, this time of year can be especially difficult for grieving kids. With your support, The Dougy Center will be able to help even more families who are beginning their journey through grief.
Steven shared a lovely metaphor with us that we would like to share with you today. He said, “From my experience with Mary’s death, I know that hospice nurses are like angels to the dying. What I’ve learned in the last year is that The Dougy Center is like an angel to the grieving.”
Your gift helps families like Steven, Jackson and Alton find comfort in times of deep sadness. Your support makes our work accessible to all grieving families without ever charging a fee for our services. Thank you so much for all you do for grieving children in our community.
Donna L. Schuurman, Ed.D., FT
Chief Executive Officer
Recently a staff member shared this story of a phone call that she took at The Dougy Center that said she will never forget.
“It was from a mother who had gone away for the weekend leaving her 15 year old daughter in the care of her 21 year old daughter. Her 19 year old son attended a local college and was also planning to stop by the house to check in. On Sunday morning, the younger daughter found her older sister had died the night before from a previously undetected heart condition. On the phone that morning the mom told me her story quickly, trying to hold in her emotion. She told me that everyone she knew told her to call The Dougy Center—that we could help her and her family.
I began to tell her about our services—sensing her urgency to learn the information as quickly as possible. I told her about our teen support groups. That we could get her 15 year old signed up to attend an orientation as soon as they were ready and her daughter could stay in a group at The Dougy Center for as long as she needed to. I let her know that at the same time she could attend her own support group. I talked about our young adult group for her 19 year old son. He could start as early as that Wednesday if he was ready. I let her know I was going to mail her a copy of our book Helping Teens Cope with Death that day. I offered to transfer her to one of our program staff who could give her guidance about how to talk to her kids about this awful tragedy and I let her know that she could call back anytime if she had any questions.
As I was explaining our services, she stopped me and said “wait a minute, how much is all of this going to cost me? I can't afford this.” I quickly apologized and said that I should have told her immediately that it wasn’t going to cost her anything. There is no fee for our services.
And that is when she broke down and started sobbing. Saying “bless you” over and over again as she cried. In that moment I truly recognized just how important it is that our services are free. What if my answer had to have been different that day? What if that mom couldn't get her kids the support that they so desperately needed because she couldn't afford it? I am so very grateful that I will never know the answer to that. I can tell you from where I stand today, that The Dougy Center not only changes lives, it saves lives. And I am privileged to witness this every day.”
You have an opportunity to join us in our mission—to support the crucial services that we provide at no cost to families when they need it most. November 11th, 2014 is the date for this year’s annual Fall Luncheon fundraiser for The Dougy Center. Held at the newly renovated and beautiful Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland, this free luncheon is as much a ‘Friend raiser’ as fundraiser and we invite you to contact us to host a table and bring your friends who might be interested in learning more about The Dougy Center and supporting our mission.
Contact Rebecca Sturges at 503- 542-4827 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on hosting a table at or attending The Dougy Center Fall Luncheon or visit our website at www.dougy.org.
When the tulips and daffodils begin sprouting up from the ground, you know Spring is not far behind. While May and June bring the promise of warmer temperatures and more sunshine to all of us, it can be a treacherous time for those who are grieving. Mother’s Day, followed swiftly by Father’s Day, can bring feelings of uneasiness and deep sadness when we are grieving the death of a parent.
Imagine, just for a moment, being 9 years old in your 3rd grade classroom as the teacher announces the art project of the day: We will be making Mother’s Day gifts! ….. And you are there, just 9 years old, grieving your mother’s death. Even kind words from your teacher or the option to make something for another special person in your life won’t soften the blow.
But what do you do on these holidays when your parent has died? What do you do when you feel like you are the only child, teenager or young adult who no longer has that parent to honor? For more than 1,100 children and parents last year, there was one thing that they could do – come to The Dougy Center – where no child has to grieve alone.
Jenny is one of the young adults that has been helped by The Dougy Center’s programs. A few weeks after Mother’s Day on June 3rd of last year, Jenny’s mother died suddenly while traveling for work. Jenny remembers getting the phone call from her father and the shock that came over her as she tried to process the information. “It was really hard,” she said. “It is still really, really hard. I talked to my mom on the phone pretty much every day. She was my best friend. She was so loved by so many people. It was hard for me to believe she was just suddenly gone.”
Jenny’s mom, Judy, was a prominent career woman dedicated to her family and community. Jenny remembers the last Mother’s Day they had together when Judy mentioned wistfully that she might retire soon and start giving tours of the Old Town/Chinatown district of Downtown Portland. “Everyone had told her she should do that for years,” said Jenny.
“My sister and I were kind of dreading Mother’s Day this year,” Jenny went on to share. “I was buying a card and being in that part of the store was hard, seeing commercials on TV was hard too. It was everywhere.” But, twice a month, Jenny finds support at The Dougy Center, where she has attended a grief support group for more than six months.
“The group feels like a lifesaver to me. There are people who understand and it’s okay to feel however I am feeling in the moment. Even in my family, there seems to be pressure to not bring up my mom or to not be sad. That makes my Dougy Center group even more important for me.”
Feeling understood is one of the most impactful benefits that your contribution to The Dougy Center is providing to grieving kids, teens, young adults and their surviving parents. Your gift directly supports our Grief Support Group programs – making possible that safe space where grief is okay, where play is okay, and where there are others who understand. Even more than that, your generosity today will help The Dougy Center provide support to more grieving families in more efficient and effective ways. Shorter waiting periods, additional support groups, and more outreach to the community are all parts of our plans for the future.
Lastly, whether locally, nationally or internationally, The Dougy Center’s mission is this: to provide a safe space for children, teens, young adults and their parents to forge their new path after the death of a loved one. At The Dougy Center, we have the privilege of walking with them along that path. In that spirit, I’d like to share a poem recently given to us from a parent of a Dougy Center child:
Swimming in the lake of my own tears, head barely above water,
feeling like sinking, but my kids are hanging on to me.
So I tread water as hard as I can.
I see an island, so I swim to it. Solid ground at The Dougy Center.
Your gift to The Dougy Center helps families get through their grief, in their own way, on their own timeline. Your gift helps grieving families find solid ground. Thank you for your commitment to the families who find comfort and support at The Dougy Center every day.