Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Moving Forward: The Launch of the Arredondo Family Foundation

The timing was impeccable. Closing arguments ended yesterday in the trial of the man accused of the Boston Marathon bombings and jury deliberation began this morning shortly after 9.

"As the jury begins to deliberate, survivors focus on each other."

Last night at the Back Bay Social Club, Carlos and Melida Arredondo launched the Arredondo Family Foundation whose mission is to "provide a helping hand to those experiencing a tragedy and to provide education on matters relating to military, veterans, military families and the issue of suicide."

In addition to support, education and advocacy, the Foundation will allow for the expansion of the already existing Scholarships honoring Alex and Brian to include scholarships for military siblings attending UMass Boston.

Carlos is a Gold Star Father whose son, Alex was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. The entire family was overwhelmed by grief including Brian, whose inconsolable grief led him to suicide in 2011. At last night's launch, Carlos spoke from his heart about his passion for the work of the Foundation. "Perhaps if something like this were available, Brian would still be alive today."

"We know what we went through and we want to make sure we are there for other families... We are losing 22 veterans a day by suicide and every little bit we can get to help the veterans and the families, I'm down for that,” Carlos told reporters.

Melida is Alex and Brian's stepmother. What a beautiful and gentle soul who exudes love and warmth and a beautiful smile. She spoke to all of the survivors of the room; survivors of 4/15/13, Gold Star brothers and mothers present at the event and those who survived the suicide of a loved one. She spoke about and honored the invisible wounds from 4/15/13 and from war. The invisible wounds can often lead to death and those are the wounds that the Arredondo Family Foundation wants to heal to prevent suicide.

Board officers include Melida and Carlos as co-chairs; Suffolk County's Register of Probate and Family Court Felix Arroyo as Treasurer; political campaign specialist and Gold Star brother Keavin Duffy as Clerk. Members are Joe D'Entremont, the President of POW/MIA Chair of Honor.org and Yadires Nova-Solcedo, an Emmy nominated journalist and host of WBZ-TV's Centro and executive producer and director of "Encuentro Latino." Rita Gilman, a psychotherapist specializing in meditation and mindfulness will chair the Foundations' Education Committee. Experienced non-profit professional Sarah Legendre will chair the Communications Committee, and Brian Malone, a financial manager, will chair the Fundraising Committee. (Brian is also running his first marathon for the Arrendondo Foundation but more about that in Friday's Fundraising feature).

The foundation will also partner with other non-profits to maximize its outreach to those who need it.

Jeff Baumann and Dic Donahue, Heather Abbott and a whole host of 4/15/13 survivors were there to lend support and to focus on healing and moving forward."

"It's awesome having a daughter....my wife...so much good has come. And you know my life is filled with so much joy." - Jeff Baumann

My heart was full to be a part of this launch and to support the Foundation in anyway I can. As a retired VA social worker, I know that there is no such things as too many organizations working to support veterans and their families. I also know the pain of family suicide having lost my dad at age 17 and my nephew in 2011 at the tender age of 28 years old. I was blessed to meet David O'Leary of Magic 106.7 who emceed the evening and hosted the live auction for a tour and prize package from WBZ Boston. He lost a family member to suicide and finds that working with organizations that support survivors is healing for him.

As one of the reporters said, "They focused on the moment and not what brought them together."

There was joy and new life with Dic's son and Jeff and Erin's baby. There were hugs, love, laughter, sharing of decadent munchies like chicken kabob drizzled in spicy peanut sauce, fried wontons, goat cheese with fresh sliced tomato on a delicate slice of Italian bread and pizza. Stories were shared and people from Facebook met in real life.

The timing was indeed impeccable as the chapter will soon close on the trial of the accused and the Boston Strong community moves forward making a difference in the world. When the bombs were detonated, little did those two brothers know that they would ignite a fire of love, of strength, of resilience, of empowerment, of good deeds and acts of kindness ... little did they know that they would ignite the fire in our souls and weld together a community of love that is stronger than the bonds of family. Little did they know of our incredible capacity to heal, to move forward with more wisdom and greater resolve to know that darkness never wins!

Darkness Never Wins

In their flower beds
awakened by the warm Spring sun
they shiver
unexpected wind chill
end of April in Boston
we shiver to remember
one year ago
what a difference a year makes
turn over from Winter to Spring
is it always this slow
or a gentle reminder
we are still healing.

Mother Nature has her own rhythm
trust in the Divine
taking time
roots extend deep into earth
we were shaken
we rise

eager to shed our coats
vibrant colors of the soul
reflecting resilience
darkness never wins.

Out of our deepest wounds we find our greatest strength, our most beautiful treasures and the knowledge that love is far greater and more powerful than any experience we endure. ~Mary McManus

Here are photos that capture the Spirit of the evening and the energy of the Arredondo Family Foundation including a moment of survivor selfie silliness:

And that is how we journey well!

My latest book, "Journey Well" is now available on Amazon along with all of my inspirational books. 50% of book proceeds are donated to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a safe, welcoming space for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to heal and stay in touch with one another; a virtual hub for a widely dispersed community whose lives have been impacted by the tragic events of April 15th and the events that followed.

When terror struck the world's oldest and most beloved marathon on April 15, 2013, it was a defining moment in Mary McManus’ life and the lives of all those in Boston and around the world. It was her wake up call to return to the sport and community that have been medicine and a lifeline for her throughout her marathon of healing the late effects of paralytic polio and experiencing 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent. Mary captures the essence of Boston Strong through her experience of the 2014 Boston Marathon and as she profiles the people who are Boston Stronger. Through her blog posts, poems and journal entries woven together with excerpts from her memoir, “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility,” you will experience, through one woman’s journey of transformation and healing, that no matter what happens to us, we can all learn to journey well.

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