ONE DAY AT A TIME: Allison Hall signed up her 5-year-old daughter, Katie, for Camp Stepping Stones the last two years, but says she has also benefitted from the gathering of families grieving the death of a loved one.
Edwin Hall, Allison’s husband and Katie’s father, lost his battle with esophageal cancer in September 2008 at age 34. Katie turned 2 the following month, and the couple — born on the same day and year — would have jointly celebrated their 35th birthdays on Nov. 3 that year.
When her daughter has asked why she doesn’t have a dad like other kids, Hall said she reminds Katie that he is “always in our hearts and memories.” At Camp Stepping Stones, however, she is just like everyone else.
A program of the Hospice of the North Shore & Greater Boston’s Bertolon Center for Grief & Healing, Camp Stepping Stones combines traditional camp experiences of arts and crafts, water activities, and games for youngsters with special activities to commemorate their loved ones. Adults attend workshops and support one another in working through issues such as in-laws and deciding to date again.
This year’s one-day camp will take place (rain or shine) on Aug. 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The space is being donated at Brimmer and May School, 69 Middlesex Road in Chestnut Hill.
At Camp Stepping Stones, Hall said, everyone “gets it.”
“At camp, Katie feels like she belongs. And just seeing her with a big smile on her face, considering everything we’ve gone through, is everything to me,” added Hall, who lives in Winthrop. “It’s really helped us both move forward and get to a better place.”
The registration deadline is Aug. 1, with a $20 fee per family. For more information about the program, call 978-774-5100 or visit www.hnsgb.org/camp.
ESSAY EXCELLENCE: Wellesley resident Anissa Lee, who is going into her junior year at Winsor School in Boston, was initially hesitant to submit an essay for the Holland & Knight law firm’s 18th annual Holocaust Remembrance Project contest for high school students.
“I looked at previous essays online and saw a lot of deep, personal connections, like students whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors,” she recalled. The essay question asks students to explore why it is vital for new generations to learn about the Holocaust, and what young people can do to prevent prejudice, discrimination, and violence throughout the world today.
“I’m a Chinese American from Wellesley,” she added. “What could I bring to this topic?”
Despite her uncertainties, Lee was awarded a $3,000 college scholarship for her essay titled “We Are One,” which was selected as one of 10 first-place winners from 2,300 submissions nationwide.
Based on an interview with Holocaust survivor Elizabeth Dopazo of Brookline, the essay describes the “common threads of suffering and resilience” between Dopazo, a Jehovah’s Witness, and Lee’s Christian great-grandfather during the Communist uprising in China.
The other winners were Naomi LaChance of Williamstown, and students from Alabama, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, and Texas. The program is provided in partnership with Facing History and Ourselves and OneWorld Boston, an affiliate of the Cummings Foundation Inc. of Woburn.
Lee said she enjoyed meeting her fellow student winners during Holland & Knight’s “Scholar Week” in Boston last month, and hearing the experiences of survivors of genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Armenia. Other activities included visits to the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, and Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown.
“The common theme was not to be a bystander, but to speak up if you see an injustice being done,” Lee said. “I really took the lessons of each survivor to heart so I can carry them on.”
ADVOCATING FOR A CURE: For the third consecutive year, Alison Takacs of Acton and her two daughters, 14-year-old Rosemary and 12-year-old Grace, traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to participate in Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day.
Sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network , the sixth annual event last month drew 675 advocates from 49 states who requested support for the pending Pancreatic Cancer Research & Education Act.
Alison’s husband and the girls’ father, Jim Takacs, died from pancreatic cancer at age 47 in November 2008. Pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with survival rates in the single digits; according to the action network, only 6 percent survive five years after diagnosis. Alison said the bill would mandate the National Cancer Institute to develop a plan to address the disease.
US Representative Niki Tsongas agreed to cosponsor the House bill in 2010, and Senator John Kerry pledged his support of the Senate bill last year. This year, the girls met with Senator Scott Brown, who also signed on.
Additionally, Team Takacs is gearing up to surpass its fund-raising total of $19,101 last year in PurpleStride Boston. The second annual 5K run/walk will take place on Aug. 26 at University of Massachusetts Boston.
Alison said it has been an important lesson to learn that lawmakers do indeed listen to their constituents. Rosemary acknowledged the experience is emotional, but she added, “We’re learning how government works while helping a great cause. That feels really good.”
“If the bill does get passed, it will be really neat to say I was there and helped persuade them,” Grace said. “I just hope it does, so we can help more people with this disease.”
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Students at Whitcomb Middle School in Marlborough collected more than 3,500 pounds of food and toiletries last month as part of the Stuff-A-Bus campaign benefiting the United Way of Tri-County’s Marlborough Community Cupboard. A total of 46,300 pounds of food has been collected since the program was established in 2008.
Carol Phipps, manager of Marlborough Community Cupboard, said donations are particularly needed during summer months, when children who receive subsidized lunches at school are at home, and donations to food pantries drop off. According to Phipps, the food pantry assisted 739 individuals in April, 750 in May, and 1,006 in June.
“With the economy the way it is, the need is as great as ever,” she said. “The students, staff, and parents did an amazing job in making the drive such a success.”
Donations of nonperishable food items may be delivered to Marlborough Community Cupboard at 255 Main St. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. To learn more about Stuff-A-Bus and other volunteer opportunities, including the United Way of Tri-County’s Toolz for School backpack program supporting students throughout MetroWest, contact Barbara LaGrenade at 508-370-4873 or email@example.com.
STEPS TO SUCCESS: Lincoln resident Michael P. Danziger, founder and chief executive officer of Steppingstone Foundation in Boston, was recognized at a recent gala benefiting Philadelphia-based Steppingstone Scholars Inc., an affiliate of the Steppingstone Foundation that develops and implements programs preparing urban students for educational opportunities leading to college success.
Danziger graduated from Yale College and received master’s degrees from the University of Oxford and Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. In 2001, he received the Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.