Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with each of Mary Howell, the current Board Chair of Kate’s Club, and Toni Millner, the immediate past Board Chair of Kate’s Club (and currently a member of the Advisory Board), over coffee, to talk about their involvement with Kate’s Club.
Mary is a Director of Corporate Finance at Industrial Developments International (IDI) and is an active volunteer with Kate’s Club, attending camp, program days and various outings.
Toni is Assistant General Counsel at Turner Broadcasting System, has been active in the governance and financial aspects of Kate’s Club, and has three young children.
The position of Board Chair requires someone that is passionate and a leader that is able to motivate others to take action. Both Mary and Toni are successful women with demanding careers and are involved in the community, and with their friends and families, and yet both devote a significant amount of their time to serving the mission of Kate’s Club. Without leaders like Mary and Toni, the kids of Kate’s Club would not have the opportunity to heal and find new friendships with others who have shared their loss experience. Another similarity between Mary and Toni is that both women suffered the loss of their mother younger in life, which makes them especially appreciate Kate’s Club’s mission. Kate’s Club recently announced that the theme for the 10th Anniversary is “Be the Light”. In hearing this announcement, I instinctively thought of Mary and Toni.
Mary’s mother passed away when she was 27 years old. Mary described how, although losing a mother is never easy to cope with, it was at least somewhat easier for her, since she was an adult at the time, with a stable career and a strong support network. She understands how critical a support system is for a child suffering from a loss.
Toni’s mother passed away when she was 15 years old. Toni knows personally that, when children lose a parent at a young age, they are forced to grow up too quickly and, although they may be struggling on the inside, are inclined to do anything to appear “normal” on the outside, to avoid standing out as “different” from their friends or at school. She explained that a safe, nurturing environment where kids can be themselves, but also discuss their loss with those who understand, is key to healing.
Mary and Toni have been able to help the kids of Kate’s Club by being good examples, as ones who suffered the loss of a loved one, dealt with the loss, and became successful people living good and normal lives. They also bring firsthand, meaningful insight to the creation of programs that empower children and teens facing life after the death of a loved one. In this way, they are the “light” and inspiration for the kids of Kate’s Club, normalizing the loss experience, brightening the lives of grieving children, and showing them that they, too, can thrive.