Event fundraising

LUMINARIA regional event benefits girls and young women who have lost their mothers; Hingham volunteer part of the effort

Courtesy pictures

April 18, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

A LUMINARIA exhibit will culminate a fundraising event at the Scituate Lighthouse on Friday, May 6, benefiting empowerHER, an organization that provides events and mentorship for young girls who have lost their mothers.

The event takes place two days before Mother’s Day, with a rain date of Saturday, May 7.

“It’s a way of letting them know they’re not alone and they’re not defined by their grief,” Kelly Jo Sunday told the Hingham Anchor. She and Megan Hayes, another Cohasset resident, are members of the planning committee and also mentors. This is the third year the event has been held at the lighthouse.

LUMINARIA bag in memory of Kelly Jo Sunday’s mother

Sunday is co-chair of the Boston LUMINARIA this year and is also a mentor to a nine-year-old girl.

“This is a regional event involving Cohasset, Hingham and other volunteers, supporters and participants,” Sunday said. “EmpowerHER has a very specific mission: to empower, support and connect girls and young women up to the age of 24 who have lost their mothers, by providing a supportive and inclusive community.”

Hingham volunteer Jillian Dahan said she was drawn to empowerHER and its mission when she heard about the organization a few years ago through an article she noticed while flipping through a local magazine .

“My own mother lost her mother at a very young age and didn’t have a support system growing up. EmpowerHER is what she needed as a young girl – to have someone to look up to who has been through this loss to leave [others who have lost their mothers] know that it is possible to survive,” Dahan explained. This is exactly what the empowerHER aims to do.

She knew she wanted to get involved in some way, and being part of the LUMINARIA planning committee gave her that opportunity. “It feels good to know that I’m helping girls like mom,” Dahan said.

No matter what someone is going through in life, “it’s comforting to know that you can relate to someone else, that you’re not alone,” Dahan said. “EmpowerHER creates connection and breaks down isolation, which when you think about it, can be such a powerful move. That connection has the ability to heal, and empowerHER helps do just that.”

Mother’s Day – which takes place two days after the event – can be a difficult time for girls who have lost their mothers, which is why LUMINARIA’s beautiful handwritten display on Scituate Pier “allows us to honor loved ones and to remind girls who have lost their mothers that they are not alone in their grief,” Dahan said I can’t think of a more fitting way to reflect and remember. [This effort has] grown since the first LUMINARIA event and is sure to be a beautiful and moving night.”

The Boston LUMINARIA site has been in Scituate for two years. “We love the beauty of the lighthouse as a backdrop, and Cara Belvin founded empowerHER from her home in Scituate in 2013” to help meet a recognized need in the community, Sunday said. Cara was 9 years old when her mother, Kit, died of breast cancer.

EmpowerHER – a grassroots organization that has focused on the South Shore for many years – also hosts 10 LUMINARIA in cities across the country and one in London.

All proceeds from LUMINARIA bag sales and donations will fund events and mentoring throughout the year.

The goal is to sell 1,000 bags at $25 each, up from the 800 sold last year. Additional donations and sponsorships are welcome.

“Whimsical display of personalized bags ‘in honor’ or ‘in memory’ of a loved one and beautifully handwritten by Scituate calligrapher Andrea Anthony raises critical funds for empowerment and awareness here,” Sunday explained.

Dahan, a longtime resident of Hingham, said she was touched by the generosity and support for this event among Hingham residents and businesses. “When I contacted donations of silent auction items or the purchase of a light fixture, most gave without hesitation,” she said. “It says a lot about the city we live in. When there’s a need, the Hingham community comes together to make a difference, and I think that’s really special – it’s inspiring to see.”

Friends and family members who are residents of Hingham also participated in this fundraising effort, helping to spread the word.

EmpowerHER’s vision is of a world where every girl or young woman who experiences the loss of her mother is part of a community of support – including positive role models and peer support within a network inclusive of girls supporting girls and women supporting women.

“It has been such an enriching experience to work with this group of people, knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these young girls,” Dahan said. “I’m lucky to be a part of it and I can’t wait to see what empowerHER has in store for us in the future.”

Promoting positive growth through bereavement and reminding these girls and young women that they are not alone is an important part of this non-therapeutic, community-based, volunteer-led program.

“The LUMINARIA has become a fundraising mainstay for empowerHER – it was born in 2020 during the pandemic when a planned gala had to be cancelled. We had planned to light the way to the gala with luminaries – a quick pivot towards Scituate Lighthouse and LUMINARIA was born!” Sunday explained.

Viewing is best experienced at dusk or in the evening. The fixtures will be installed around 4-6pm, with most viewers expected between 6-8pm. “The sun is expected to set around 7:48 p.m. on Friday, May 6,” according to Sunday.

The LUMINARIA Planning Committee will partner with their local recycling centers and local authorities to recycle or reuse LUMINARIA items and minimize environmental impact,” said Sunday.

She first got involved with empowerHER several years ago after hearing about the organization, organizing fundraisers, and volunteering on the gala office and committee.

This program is one of the only non-profit organizations dedicated to serving girls who have lost their mothers through events and mentorship and offers an integrated series of programs offering year-round events for girls.

These include a signature Mother’s Day retreat, Beach Bash, cooking classes, yoga and more. All programs and activities are offered free of charge to families and are available in person and virtually. For more information, videos and stories, visit www.empoweringher.org. For more information about the event, to buy a LUMINARIA bag or to make a donation, visit https://www.empoweringher.org/luminaria. For more details on sponsorship, visit www.empoweringher.org.

Each person who purchases a fixture will also receive an exclusive link to photos from the exhibit and an aerial video – “all the time and art given away” by local photographers Lara Kimmerer and Lauren Cole.

“Birch Swart’s acoustic music will give the thoughtful vibe to this beautiful event,” Sunday said. “The lighthouse is a public space that is accessible to everyone. There is limited parking at the lighthouse, but it’s a pleasant walk from various points in Scituate.”

No reservation is required. Everyone is welcome.