A large number of nonprofits help to fill in the cracks of society that so many people are in danger of falling through. In fulfilling their mission, they impact not just an individual or community, but our entire world, making it an infinitely better place to live.
One organization doing such meaningful work is the Family Lives On Foundation, which is based in Lionville and supports the lifelong emotional well-being of children whose mother or father has died. One in every 20 children in America experiences the death of a parent before the age of 16. That’s roughly one child in each classroom and two on each school bus.
Family Lives On’s Tradition Program is truly one of a kind, and provides opportunities for intentional remembering, creating a safe haven for grief, communication, and celebration.
While there are other grief interventions and support programs available to children who’ve lost a parent, only Family Lives On is as consistent as clockwork throughout a child’s life.
“What we do is try to recreate every year a special moment that a kid had with a parent who died, because the key is remembering, not forgetting,” said Kelly Becker, the organization’s Director of Development and Outreach. “That might be a fishing trip, going to a ball game, or having a family picnic. And we make that an annual tradition for them until they turn 18.
“We’re headed into our 20th year, and three years ago, we opened up our delivery model and began serving children all throughout the country. Now, we have more than 500 families from 45 states under our umbrella.”
As a result of its ability to heal the wounds of not only children in Southeastern Pennsylvania, but also the entire country, the Family Lives On Foundation is this year’s recipient of a holiday donation from MONTCO Today. In lieu of inundating mailboxes with Christmas cards or doorsteps with gift baskets, each member of MONTCO Today has contributed, on behalf of the website’s affiliate partners, to Family Lives On.
“We appreciate every penny we receive,” said Becker. “We’ve outgrown the funds we have available, and have a waitlist of more than 100 kids.”
Intervening in the life of a grieving child has such a wide-ranging impact on society.
“Oftentimes, when one parent dies, there’s another one left, and kids are reluctant to open up to them because it brings so many tears,” Becker said. “And they don’t want to add to the heartache. So what they do is bottle up their emotions. And that can lead to long-term problems like self-medicating and struggling in school.
“We try to give the children grief words, and tell them it’s OK to talk about it. We keep the lines of communication open at all times.”
The genesis of Family Lives On can be traced to Nov. 1996 when Mary Murphy was diagnosed with cancer. A year later, it was evident that the disease had progressed too far for her to expect a remission.
Murphy talked with her 10-year-old son Bryan to prepare him for life without her. Together, they came up with the idea of Bryan continuing their tradition of making butter cookies around Christmas. They believed that repeating an activity they had enjoyed together for many years would comfort and support him during his grieving process.
With vision and courage, Murphy realized that all children whose mothers had died could benefit from continuing the traditions and simple pleasures they once shared. She incorporated the Mommy’s Light Lives On Fund in Oct. 1997 to help facilitate traditions for maternally grieving children, teens, and their families. She died two and a half months later.
In the fall of 2012, the organization expanded its Tradition Program to include children grieving the death of a father. To reflect the expanded mission, the Mommy’s Light Lives On Fund officially rebranded as the Family Lives On Foundation in 2013.
For all the work it does, Family Lives On is comprised of a staff of just four, and is looking to expand its Board of Directors.
Click here if you would like to donate to the organization or receive more information.