(Florham Park, NJ) – “When I was 7-years-old my dad died from a terrible disease called cancer. When my brother and I got the news that our dad died, my whole life was turned upside down. Everything started to go downhill for me, and fast.” 14-year-old emcee, Bella, shared with the 280 guests at Good Grief’s 8th Annual Gala, A Night Among Our Stars on Thursday, October 11th. “I was made fun of a lot in my old school because I didn’t have a dad. I know it’s hard to believe that I or anyone else could be bullied for losing a parent, but it was true for my friends at Good Grief, too. Our peers just didn’t understand. Luckily, Good Grief came into my life at a time when I thought things couldn’t get better. Turns out, I was wrong. The light in my darkness was Good Grief.”
The generous and compassionate guests of A Night Among Our Stars raised $385,000 of much needed funds for Good Grief’s mission of providing free and unlimited support to children and families following the death of a mother, father, sister, or brother. Good Grief serves over 800 grieving children and adults in over 200 communities in the state of New Jersey through its Princeton and Morristown centers, and its satellite program in Jersey City.
The dynamic program for the red-carpet themed event mirrored Bella’s story of strength through adversity, resilience, and hope. Good Grief CEO, Joe Primo, set the stage for the guests at The Park Savoy Estate, “You see, what happens here tonight matters deeply because what happens at Good Grief changes the outcomes of a child’s life. Death might take a kid’s loved one, but at Good Grief we don’t submit to the pain, the isolation, or the scariness of it all.”
While the topic of children losing a parent or sibling is somber, the evening was not. 20 Good Grief kids added to the air of a red carpet event by dressing as (adorable) paparazzi to welcome the guests into the ballroom, to introduce the speakers and the honoree in awards show fashion, and to cheer on the CEO and guests during the Fund a Need portion of the night.
Anthony R. Slimowicz, Esq. of Long Hill Township was honored with the Community Star Award. Currently, Mr. Slimowicz serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Crum & Forster Insurance Company, a national property and casualty insurance company. “The need for Good Grief to exist for free is tremendous. One less stress, one less bill, and one less barrier to receiving the benefits of Good Grief is critical to these families. When I visited Grief Expressions Summer Camp this year, I was taken aback by how happy the kids were as they played with each other. One child I met lost both parents. But at Good Grief they fit in; they are not ‘different’ from everyone else, which is a feeling they experience everywhere else.” Mr. Slimowicz told the crowd.
If Bella, Mr. Primo, and Mr. Slimowicz didn’t convince the guests of the dire need for Good Grief’s programs, 15-year-old Catherine drove it home. “Three and half years ago, I lost the most amazing man I have ever known – my dad Michael.” She bravely shared with the room. “When I felt abandoned by people I had once called my friends, Good Grief was there. Good Grief is a place where everyone has a voice, no matter how small. It’s a place where you can be you, no matter how different, or broken. It’s a safe haven to deal with your emotions and rebuild yourself at your pace. They make it okay to remember without being judged.” Before exiting the stage, Catherine looked out at the donors and supporters in the room, “Thank you for being the light in my darkness. You are the rainbow after the storm.”
Good Grief’s programs are free of charge, and there is no limit on the amount of time families can participate in the programs. All funds raised at A Night Among Our Stars support the delivery of Good Grief’s free and unlimited Night of Support programs, Grief Expressions Summer Camp, In-Community satellite programs in Jersey City and Newark, and Good Grief’s groundbreaking new Routes to Resilience school curriculum.
The evening ended in high spirits, with Mr. Primo concluding “When the world seems cruel and unfair, the horror of it all doesn’t have to win because people can choose to show up and change the outcome for the more than 800 participants we support each and every year. In short, if this topic is bringing you down, this room sure should bring you up.”
A Night Among Our Stars was a huge success due to the support of its volunteer planning committee and Good Grief’s corporate partners. The Gala Committee included co-chairs Ellen Cook and Jeanette Falotico, Vicky Bashant, Sara Caldwell, Lorraine Da Silva, Conor Dolan, Karen Hayes, Linda Hough, Mariana Karpatova, Susan Kim, Alanna McNally, Nicole Mort, Jen Nemeth, Ryan Pirchio, Gena Pogorzelski, and Leigh Porges. Presenting Sponsors for the event included Celgene, Private Advisor Group, Atlantic Health System, JBK Associates International, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Sanofi.
Good Grief is respected as a national leader in delivering grief services to children and their families. Since its founding in 2004, Good Grief’s mission has been to provide unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults, and families after the death of a mother, father, sister, or brother through peer support programs, education, and advocacy. With centers in Morristown and Princeton, New Jersey, Good Grief currently provides support to over 550 participants each month. Good Grief is a registered 501(c) (3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. For more information about Good Grief, please visit our web site www.good-grief.org.