Every mom knows life is no day at the beach.
But just in time for Mother's Day, Tu Nidito Children and Family Services is honoring five "Remarkable Moms" who have made a difference in the community with a beach party celebration designed to encourage attendees to hang loose and reflect on the joys of childhood and family.
"We wanted to create an event that makes people want to celebrate life and be happy and share those fine times with friends and family," said Tu Nidito Assistant Director Ciara Meyer-Garcia. "We wanted a low-key charity event since Tucson has its fair share of black-tie events."
Celebrating life in spite of unexpected twists has become both a mantra and a career for Joan Brock, who will be honored at the event on Saturday along with Vicki Began, Carol Gaxiola, Cathy McCall and Debbie Rowe.
"Life takes on a journey of its own. Sometimes when life takes these turns, it creates a moment for you to become something other than what you thought you would be," said Brock, a former teacher at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School who became an author and inspirational speaker after facing first the loss of her eyesight as a young mother at the age of 32, then the loss of her husband to cancer five years later.
Brock's story of triumph over these obstacles, "More Than Meets the Eye," has been translated into several languages and is a Reader's Digest Condensed Book. It was made into a Lifetime movie in 2003.
"Depending on the audience, I hope to give them perception about getting through the tough stuff and going forward positively and productively and making that a choice, because that is a choice that we have to make," Brock said.
Brock's message resonates with Tu Nidito, the homegrown nonprofit organization that each year serves more than 800 children affected by serious illness and death. Its programs include group support and one-on-one support from case workers and social workers.
Other programs are Courage Beads, which document and honor a child's journey through life-threatening illness with beads; grief support for children, teens, young adults and family members; and a program to support children of parents diagnosed with any form of cancer.
Brock is impressed with the comfort and hope Tu Nidito offers when people are feeling bewildered, lost and isolated.
"With the Children to Children program, there is nothing better for a child than feeling like they are not the only one in that situation. Being able to turn to another child who has lost a parent or someone close to them so they can say 'I know what you mean' helps keep them from feeling isolated so they can go forward and lead a healthy life," she said.
From her own experiences, Brock has found that while reaching out to others can be difficult, it also provides growth opportunities for those in need as well as for those providing help.
"The bottom line is: Don't do the loss alone, whatever it is. You may think you are tough, but you can't do it alone," she said. "I have learned that whether it be friends or family or faith, you have to reach out."
Tu Nidito itself is a model of outreach, with more than 220 volunteers facilitating the rapidly growing programs, according to Meyer-Garcia.
"We take a lot of pride in the fact that because of our volunteers, 91 cents of every dollar go directly into our programs," she said.
Contact Loni Nannini at firstname.lastname@example.org