Motherhood is dear to my heart and Mother’s Day has become my favorite holiday because I get to celebrate the two people who have had the most profound impact on my life and a growing community of remarkable moms, a circle of sisterhood both within and without the Sweet Readers Communities.
Because it’s late in the day and this may get a bit windy, I’ll start with that sisterhood of moms and end with those two powerhouses who have fueled my greatest joys and life lessons.
As you may know, Sweet Readers was founded by me, my mom and my daughter Sophie. So while this is my “job”, it is also personal. Over the years, many of the women of Sweet Readers have grown to become sisters, soul mates, staunch supporters and dear friends and most recently, I have been blessed to meet a few moms, total strangers, who have stepped up to literally save my life and in doing so, have found an enduring place in my heart.
While there are literally hundreds of remarkable moms in our communities (and people who serve as moms to their loved ones), in the spirit of space and this 10th day of May, I have limited the list to 10. They are in no particular order and I hope you will take a few moments to be inspired, like I have been, by the spirit and generosity of each one of them, ending with my mom and daughter. I look forward to sharing more remarkable women with you soon and hope you have enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day.
Here’s our Mother’s Day video, which starts with a collage of moms and finishes with 20 of our Student Ambassadors and Young Leaders sharing what they love about their moms! Each blog post we will celebrate another mom (because Mothers deserve to be celebrated more than one day!!) and then add them to the growing list below the video… Thank you for being here!
Maureen is the renaissance woman, though so humble you’d never know it. Maureen will quietly stand behind the scenes, watching her children in action, empowering them to take risks and lead, making home a spirited place (I’m told she organizes the best Christmas celebrations!) – even during a pandemic and instilling strong values of family across generations, community and hard work. If someone in her family or community is in need, Maureen is there in a heartbeat. While I had heard through her daughter Ella what a devoted mother and daughter Maureen was, over the years I have had the honor to see her quiet strength, humility and strong commitment shine through. Last year we launched Sweet Readers in Toronto, when Maureen got on a plane, in what felt like a moment’s notice, to help us manage the last minute pilot changes. She made the trip so easy (even recruiting new supporters on the plane after all those delays) and a joy. This past January, together with Ella, Maureen helped to save the Leadership Council by opening her home for their meetings. While Maureen is also an accomplished financial journalist, educator and writer, it’s her values and care that I find the most inspiring. Thank you Maureen, for being an inspirational and generous mom and person. Happy Mother’s Day!
This is Damaris. We met when she was pregnant and piloting Sweet Readers at her school. Damaris has been a patient, resourceful and stalwart supporter of the Nightingale Sweet Readers programs through many iterations, never wavering in her belief in the value of the creative human engagement those Nightingale Sweet Readers were providing and receiving to and from their adult partners. Over the years we have become friends, but that friendship reached a new level a few months ago when Damaris sent me a book a friend of hers had written about going through cancer/chemo called Fearless Joy. When six weeks later I had 24 hours to leave New York before the Massachusetts quarantine would derail my treatments, Damaris reached out to friends and family and found me a safe, clean home that had been empty for two weeks, for me to live. She actually found two options, but that one turned out to be the needle in the haystack. And when COVID19 set in, Damaris kept her family together and with two young children, spearheaded a fundamental learning dynamic change to ensure her Nightingale girls would continue to flourish while keeping her own children safe, loved and fed. Last week we piloted the first group CONNECT program thanks to Damaris’ vision and commitment. So many older adults and their student Ambassadors are feeling purpose and place, more important now that ever, because of Damaris. And I am grateful for your heartfelt friendship. Thank you Damaris. Happy Mother’s Day!
Dr. Linda DeCherrie came to me several years ago. She’s a respected gerontologist and professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and her daughter had become a Sweet Reader at Chapin. Linda, a single mom who runs Mount Sinai’s Visiting Doctors Program, wanted to know how she could help. Sometimes in your life you meet someone so humble and yet so talented and effective in what she does, you almost can’t believe it. Dr. DeCherrie soon joined our board and has served as an anchor for the charity and for me ever since. Thanks to Linda, Sweet Readers has a wonderful stronghold in Chicago and a growing partnership with Mount Sinai School of Medicine. During COVID19, Linda’s job has become more important than ever. And yet I know her two daughters are managing to feel safe and supported by their mom and maintain close ties with their grandparents. I hope you will watch the interview Young Leader Erica did with Dr. DeCherrie to learn more about Palliative Medicine and the Visiting Doctors Program. Thank you Linda, for all you do for your family, Sweet Readers and thousands of isolated adults in need. Happy Mother’s Day!
Erin came to me in 2012, after her son had become a Sweet Reader at Eagle Hill School in Greenwich, CT. She said “I have more boys for you!” As an 8th grade dean, Erin was determined to give that same experience to her Brunswick Boys and seven years in, they continue to open hearts and make astonishing connections. Erin is a fierce champion of her boys – both biological and at ‘wick and a staunch supporter of Sweet Readers. In 2016 Erin joined our team along with Sarah Burdett and two Brunswick boys to launch Sweet Readers London. What a beautiful experience that was! Erin became a dear friend and when I was diagnosed and feeling a bit shaky, it was texts from Erin that gave me strength and helped me to feel supported – not alone. Erin has continued to reach out to me, even as her own life has been sheltered through the pandemic. She sends me funny memes, Netflix suggestions and the best emojis! I love you Erin!! Thank you for all you do for your families, including Sweet Readers and me. Happy Mother’s Day!
Merideth and I became friends after her husband Ken joined my dog group in Central Park. While Cloud and Boots get along, it’s really the friendship with Merideth which has been so heartfelt and inspiring to me. Merideth worked so hard to create a lovely new home when COVID 19 set in and immediately relocated to the country to protect her family. Merideth and Ken surrounded their two grown kids with love and support and empowered each of them to figure out the best next steps in their lives. Especially moving was how Merideth found creative ways to continue to see her mother, first stopping by for distanced visits, then dropping off goods, then adding a little online canasta. When times got tough, Merideth and Ken were there for me, no questions asked. Merideth’s friendship feels like a blanket of love and I am so inspired to be a better person and friend because of her. It’s not really the grand gestures, but the simple texts, with all of those pretty hearts and flowers, the heartfelt reaching outs. There is nothing like good girlfriends and Merideth has managed to be not only a great friend, devoted wife and daughter, but also an exceptional mother. She’s teaching me how to let go while still loving my daughter. And did I mention that for a time, Merideth also served as the most loving, patient (with me) and kind interface for our adult participants? Or that she is a graduate of Columbia College and Law School? Thank you Merideth. I am so grateful for you. Happy Mother’s Day!
Betsy is a force. But you might not realize it because she’s one of the most gracious and lovely women I know. I’m so moved by the way she champions her daughters and wanted to give her a shout out for the years of generous support she has also given to Sweet Readers, attending every event and supporting her daughter Anna’s work. Recently, Betsy and Rob, new empty nesters and ready to revel in the freedom, found themselves quarantined in a spot they planned as a three day vacation with the girls. They have managed to pivot and turn three days into nearly six weeks of family hikes and bonding. In true Betsy nature, with a smile, she is leading her family through this pandemic and will find the silver lining every time. Anna, one of our Young Leaders who has helped us build our Interview Series and to launch Sweet Readers CONNECT, has been a devoted volunteer for eight years and Betsy and Rob have been there every step of the way! Thank you Betsy. Happy Mother’s Day!
This is Sarah with my dog Boots and her daughters Evi and Josie. A friend of a friend connected me to Sarah when I realized I might not be able to handle my dog’s care as I was going though first a splenectomy followed by an 18 week course of chemo. Sarah runs a school in Brooklyn and she and her husband (a journalist) are raising two beautiful daughters. Without even meeting me in person, Sarah opened her home, took Boots in and have been loving him like family (and sending me wonderful photos and videos!). Through Sarah I am learning to open my heart and have faith in the kindness of strangers who somehow never were strangers. I feel as if I have known Sarah all my life and am so deeply grateful to her and her family. Sarah also happens to be a talented writer! Here’s a piece she wrote for the Daily Beast about the challenges of raising two young children while managing a home, a business, a marriage and a life during COVID19: http://https://www.thedailybeast.com/schools-out-forever-or-at-least-it-feels-that-way Thank you Sarah, for all of the love. Right back to you. Happy Mother’s Day Sarah!
This is Andrea. She is one of my nurses at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Receiving chemo treatments in Manhattan in the middle of the pandemic surge was frankly traumatizing. I have been so blessed to have received the love and support from so many wonderful moms and Andrea is one of them. True, she is a nurse, but her nurturing nature feels more like a mom to me. Having arrived with blown out veins, low white blood cell counts and a fear of hospitals, Andrea, Dr. Armand and their team quickly restored my faith in medicine and in pandemic hospital care and thankfully, I am now feeling strong and ready to move towards a full cure! Andrea is also a wonderfully loving mom and on this and every day, her kids are so lucky to have her. Thank you Andrea! Happy Mother’s Day!
This is my mom, me and Sophie, back in 2010. While my mom passed away in December, 2015, her light still lives within me and her guidance will be with me for the rest of my life. My mom came from humble beginnings, her father was a waiter and her mother sadly died before my mother made it to middle school. Through her innate exuberance, love of life and remarkable intellect, my mother managed to, with the support of mentors and friends, pull herself out of a Cinderella story to earn three full scholarships to (and complete those advanced degrees at) Hunter College, NYU and Columbia’s Teacher’s College, raise a family of five children (three Eagle Scouts and me among them) in a beautiful home in Westchester. My mom commuted 40 minutes each day until her early 80’s to serve as a guidance counselor at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. She empowered thousands of disadvantaged young people to get educated and have a chance at a better life. I will never forget the joy that spread across my mother’s face, even as she faced her own struggles, when she called out during a culmination at one of our programs at The Met – “I”m so proud of my daughter!” My mother taught me the importance of motherhood, family, hard work, helping others and believing in myself. She told me I could do anything if I put my mind and heart in it and I believed her. Her remarkable strength and commitment to family and community remain pillars in my life and I will cherish her forever. Thank you mom. Happy Mother’s Day.
This is Sophie; my daughter and one of the great loves of my life. Sophie manages to be determined and strong, gentle and vulnerable. I feel so blessed to have raised this special human who listens to her own heart, knows how to stand up and reach out when it matters and has a deeply loving soul and perceptive, thoughtful mind. She’s also, defiantly, a very good listener and seer of people.
There would be no Sweet Readers without Sophie. Watching her light up lives (including her own and her grandmother’s), her incredible care and sensitivity for people, her exuberance, creative thinking and impact – compelled me to step up and support her movement for change.
Sophie is teaching me about self care and friendship, boundaries and letting go. She has also taught me that sometimes, the most valuable education comes from life experiences. The best Mother’s Day present was that on Friday, Sophie, having traveled 2,100 miles across Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia and up the East Coast in 36 hours in the middle of a Pandemic, is safely at home. Motherhood is a blessing and I am grateful to be Sophie’s mom and to have all of the wonderful moms of Sweet Readers and beyond in my life. Happy Mother’s Day (Night)!