Tu Nidito’s annual Remarkable Celebration honors Southern Arizona women who have impacted the lives of children and families. Honorees include, back row, from left, Nancy Sweitzer, Anna McCallister-Nichols and Pam Grissom; and, front row, from left, Terri Zarling and Julie Wolfe Beadle. The event seeks to raise at least $314,000.

In the Old Pueblo, Tu Nidito has become known for its signature celebration of moms.

On Saturday, the eve of Mother’s Day, it will offer the chance to go the prom and honor women who have made impacts in the community and on the lives of children and their families at the nonprofit’s Remarkable Celebration, 6 p.m. at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.

“Our event is known as a fun, themed celebration and this year we wanted to stay true to that, but also give people the opportunity to dress up in nice gowns and suits if they want to,” said Amber Jacoby, chair of the event. “It is a fun way to kick it up and make it a little more elegant if you would like. Some people will come with big hair and big gowns, and others won’t. We just encourage everyone to have fun with it.”

Honorees this year include:

  • Julie Wolfe Beadle, who has overcome hemiplegic cerebral palsy to become a champion athlete, mother, wife and director of major gifts at Tucson Medical Center.
  • Pam Grissom, who found the fortitude after the accidental death of her son, Grant, to start the Grissom Talent Agency and become co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Arizona List, which helps women running for office.
  • Anna McCallister-Nichols, who worked with her husband, Kevin, to found Playformance, an indoor gym offering a play-based curriculum, after their daughters were born with cystic fibrosis.
  • Dr. Nancy Sweitzer, who coped with the death of her husband, Kurt, while raising two children and becoming director of the UA Sarver Heart Center.
  • Terri Zarling, who has leveraged the medical challenges of her daughter, Jessica, into a driving force for her many philanthropic and business activities in the community.

The lineup of women is truly incredible, said Jacoby, who has been involved with Tu Nudito for 19 years.

“There are so many brilliant, talented and generous women in our community; every year I am amazed by the women who are honored,” she said.

Jacoby is equally impressed by the many families she has met through her volunteerism at Tu Nidito. The local nonprofit provides a range of emotional, social and educational programs, along with individual, family and group support and grief intervention to children and families whose lives have been impacted by the diagnosis of a serious illness or the death of a loved one.

“Just being invited into such a sacred space during the most difficult times anyone could imagine will shift the course of your life,” Jacoby said. “These people are so open and grateful for the support and work of Tu Nidito and it is incredible to just be around the families and to see the their resilience.”

Sweitzer understands the impact of Tu Nudito programs and the importance of resilience.

She became involved with Tu Nudito when her teenage daughter, Geneva, began volunteering in bereavement support programs after their move to Tucson from Wisconsin five years ago.

“When my husband died, we were in Wisconsin and we took advantage of a program similar to Tu Nudito to help everyone in the family deal with the loss and grief. ... At first the kids said, ‘We don’t need this,’ but in the end, we all found it helpful to process the grief and be with others who understood what we were experiencing. You are around friends and family who want to help, but sometimes it is a different conversation to be with others who have suffered the same loss,” Sweitzer said.

Sweitzer said Geneva, now a sophomore at Cornell University, found her three years at Tu Nidito gratifying. She partnered with Tu Nidito for her senior internship through Basis Tucson North and wrote a book about grief for middle school youths after realizing there were many books tailored to elementary and high school students, but very few for middle-schoolers.

“As a volunteer, Geneva thought she had special insight into what the kids were experiencing; I think she realized she has something to give the kids. She knew how important Tu Nidito’s work is and loved it. She is really remarkable. I don’t know how remarkable I am, but I have a remarkable daughter,” Sweitzer said.

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Promoting awareness and education about helping young people to deal with grief is a priority for Tu Nudito’s grief education and grief intervention, said Amanda Marks, community impact director.

“What we know is that when children and teens are grieving, the grief doesn’t stop when they are in school or during after-school activities and other extracurricular activities, and this has been driving the Community Impact Movement,” Marks said. “We try to teach teachers and other professionals who work with children about how children and teens grieve and how to better support them and give them a safe space where they have permission to grieve in the classroom.”

She said that according to a 2018 study, one in 14 children in Arizona grieve the death of a parent or sibling before they turn 18, and that as of 2012, 93 percent of teachers surveyed had no training in childhood bereavement.

Marks said grief “looks differently for each age group” and children often express their grief through non-verbal communication, disruptive behavior or acting out; training can help them cope .

“Although most of the teachers had no training, 70 percent have at least one student in the their classes who have lost a parent, guardian or sibling, and they don’t have the skills to support those children. We want to switch that number up and have 93 percent of the teachers in Southern Arizona know how to support a student since it is so prevalent,” Marks said.

To that end, Marks has offered presentations to more than 4,100 educators and professionals about childhood bereavement since 2016. TUSD now incorporates the presentation in its mandatory professional development.

“We try to give teachers and professionals the skills to help them get comfortable with not being able to make it better, but just being there and doing what they can to help the kids get through the grief,” Marks said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net