It’s the silver anniversary for Tu Nidito and the nonprofit will mark the occasion with a hybrid twist on its traditional Remarkable Celebration.
A Night Under the Stars will feature virtual access to one-of-a-kind live raffle drawings and a live celebration of four Remarkable Moms whose lives reflect the mission of “the little nest,” dedicated to helping children and families navigate grief, death and illness in the Tucson community.
“It is such a beautiful thing to have a community organization that is relatively small and yet so impactful, and to have 25 years under our belt is a huge milestone for us. We are really excited,” said Becky Slade, director of development for Tu Nidito. “It is also a very interesting time to reach this monumental mark in that we have so many children in the community impacted by grief related to the COVID pandemic. That has exacerbated the need for our programs and services and reiterates how grateful we are to be here to serve our community.”
Like many nonprofits, Tu Nidito mounted a digital response to the increased demand created by the pandemic: 13 months ago it switched its support groups from in-person to virtual formats. Since then, it has provided 675 children and their families with emotional, social and educational support through online groups and one-on-one interactions.
The services are all free of charge for children and families whose lives have been impacted by the diagnosis of a serious illness or the death of a loved one.
Slade said limited in-person activities may resume outdoors at Tu Nidito this month; plans are to return to full capacity with in-person programs when school is back in session in the fall while continuing remote support services as well.
“All the services we previously provided in-person are behind a screen. For some people, that is not their favorite thing, but it has offered opportunities for us to reach more families and children in Southern Arizona. Some families live far away and aren’t able to commute and now they can join our support groups on Zoom. Our dream and intention is to be able to continue offering remote services for people in remote areas of Pima County and Southern Arizona,” Slade said.
Virtual services offer other benefits as well, according to Donna Crawford, a 2021 Remarkable Mom.
“From what I understand, some volunteers feel that children share more in this environment. They feel safer behind the screen in their own space at home and that helps them to open up,” said Crawford.
A former chair of the Remarkable Celebration and long-time Tu Nidito volunteer, Crawford said she “feels humbled and flattered to have come full circle” as an honoree in Tu Nidito’s signature annual celebration of moms.
Crawford, who is also involved in the Tucson Ladies Council, The Christina- Taylor Green Memorial Foundation, First Tee of Tucson, and Angel Charity for Children, is awed by the giving hearts of her fellow honorees: Kirsten Cloutier Grabo, Serena Jain Scott and Ellen Yasmer.
Cloutier Grabo has been giving back for many years. A former baton twirler and current coach for the Pride of Arizona marching band, she helped to establish the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona in 1994. Now a UA Graduate Program Coordinator, Cloutier Grabo sees the need for Tu Nidito after experiencing the loss of her husband, John, to leukemia in 2014, and the diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy in their sons, Beckett and Brady. Ever an optimistic, Cloutier Grabo continuously works to give the boys “dignity of risk” by encouraging them to embrace life to the fullest.
Scott, an internist with Banner-University Medical Center, shares that philosophy. She adopted the motto, “Heads Up and Hair Free” after losing her hair to chemotherapy following a breast cancer diagnosis in May 2019 when she was a new mom to her son, Remy. Now in remission, the working mom, wife, physician, mentor, and educator has served as a role-model to co-workers, students and everyone around her as she maneuvers her treatment with “profound empathy and humanism.”
Heartfelt humanism is also embodied by Yasmer, a mother and grandmother whose philanthropic activities include the Junior League of Tucson, Southern Arizona Dental Auxiliary, the Tucson Festival of Books, the Tucson Jewish Federation and Tu Nidito, where her volunteer work “has helped her navigate the unfinished business that remains when people die.” That business began with childhood grief from the tragic loss of her father and was compounded years later by the sudden death of her husband at age 52. Through it all, Yasmer has learned that “it is never too late to grieve.”
Ultimately, the diverse group of Remarkable Moms, like all people, are united by their shared experiences of grief and loss, according to Slade.
“Collectively these Remarkable Mom honorees speak to the heart of the work that we do here at Tu Nidito. They themselves have been directly impacted by diagnosis of serious medical conditions or the death of loved ones and have navigated that grief. Through their own grief journeys, they have found ways to inspire and give back to the community,” said Slade.
Moving forward, Crawford emphasized that the pandemic has amplified the importance of Tu Nidito. She cited a research letter published in the April 2021 edition of JAMA Pediatrics in which researchers estimate that 40,000 children nationwide have lost a parent to COVID-19 and called for evidence-based interventions and national reforms to connect the children to support services.
To that end, Crawford hopes that Tucsonans will come out in force to help Tu Nidito meet its goal of $150,000 at the upcoming fundraiser.
“If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can’t predict the future. We don’t know what is around the corner and the services provided by organizations like Tu Nidito are more important now than ever,” Crawford said.
Contact freelance write Loni Nannini at firstname.lastname@example.org