Rebecca's Gift helps grieving families
“We did it!” said Kat Meyer, of Rebecca’s Gift. The Cleveland Heights-based nonprofit, founded in 2015, has already provided meaningful help to local grieving families. And it feels really good.
Meyer and a dear friend, Karla Winnan, started Rebecca’s Gift to honor the loss of Meyer’s six-year-old daughter, who died from brain cancer in June 2014. Over the months that followed Rebecca’s death, Kat and her husband, Eric, wrestled to manage grief and day-to-day living, while also rediscovering their other two children.
Young siblings of a terminally ill child may never have experienced their parents without the preoccupations of illness; explained Mayer, “They never had their mom’s full focus.”
It was hard for the Meyers to go on their first family vacations without Rebecca; the longing for her was strong. The togetherness with their surviving children was essential—for parents and for each child. To be together, to have permission to have fun, to do new things, to indulge in treats—these are rites of passage that every grieving family needs. Thus was born Rebecca’s Gift, a nonprofit that sends grieving families on their first vacation following the death of a child.
There are many generous organizations that provide for terminally ill children and their families. After a child’s death, a lot of that help goes away. The goal of Rebecca’s Gift is to buoy the family through that transition by bringing focus to grieving siblings, who notice the evaporation of support during an intensely painful era.
Meyer designed the organization so it can cover all vacation expenses for the grieving family. This includes admission tickets, transportation, meals, and spending money for souvenirs. “I wanted it to be as all-inclusive as possible,” said Meyer. “I wanted parents to not have to say ‘no’ due to money.”
Raising money through charitable events, and building relationships with generous venues [known] for family fun, Rebecca’s Gift has come out of the gate successfully. This past summer, two local families were sent on unique driving-distance trips: a Pittsburgh getaway, and family fun at Cedar Point and Kalahari.
The families choose the destinations, based on what Rebecca’s Gift can afford. As funds increase, the organization plans to increase the number of families sponsored, and the variety of destinations.
Family time together is meaningful. Despite “a long road of surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, tears, laughter, and a lot of stress,” Jillian’s family went on many family trips to lift her spirits. When it became clear that Jillian would not survive her illness, each family member broke “into tiny pieces of hurt and sadness.”
Said Jillian’s mother, “We all handle it in different ways because of age and how each of us lost a slightly different person. I lost a daughter, [my husband] a step-daughter, and my girls a sister.” The opportunity to travel together [to Pittsburgh] “was much needed for our family. It was emotional for this momma who tried her hardest to hide the tears of missing Jillian on our very first trip without her.”
Rebecca’s Gift has funds to sponsor one more family in 2016, and accepts referrals from therapists, hospice centers, or clergy members who are actively working with an Ohio family that has lost a child due to terminal illness in the past six months to two years. The family must include surviving siblings under the age of 18. Visit http://rebeccasgift.org/contact/recommend.shtml to refer a family.
For more information, find Rebecca’s Gift on Facebook or at www.rebeccasgift.org. Upcoming fundraisers include an Un-Event during the month of November, and Handstands for Help at JumpStart Gymnastics (Dec. 21). Donations of goods and services to include in family getaways are also welcome.
Mostly a mom, Shari Nacson, LISW-S, is a freelance editor, child development specialist, and nonprofit consultant who makes her home in Cleveland Heights. Nacson is inspired by kids and adults who build connection through kindness.