Mother’s Day is an occasion to celebrate the joys of motherhood with family and friends gathered close to honor beloved matriarchs. Flowers abound and phones ring with messages from far-flung sons and daughters. But what about mothers who have lost a child? For them, Mother’s Day becomes a day to dread, one where the pall of loss and sadness hangs over every moment. They are deprived of the chance to push children in strollers or to hear the footsteps of an active child coming and going in life.
To honor these mothers and their families, as well as all children who have been lost too soon, the MISS Foundation is sponsoring the inaugural “Empty Strollers, Empty Shoes: We Walk for Them,” an international memorial walk. The goal of this event is “to make a statement and build community on one of the most symbolic days of the year for families – Mother’s Day,” says Kathy Sandler, executive director of MISS, a volunteer-based 501 (c)( 3) organization dedicated to providing support and long-term aid to grieving families after the death of a child at any age, from any cause.
You’re invited to join families at the Phoenix Zoo early on Mother’s Day morning — Sunday, May 8th — to push an empty stroller or wear a child’s pair of shoes around your neck. Registration, which includes a family day pass to the zoo, opens at 6:45am and the walk starts at 7:30am. Families can gather pledges and build or join teams of walkers. Over 300 walkers are expected with the hopes of raising $30,000. Details are available at firstgiving.com/missfoundation.
Following the walk will be “Beautiful Soles” event at the zoo’s Lakeside Ramada, where families can decorate donated shoes in memory of their child; these shoes will then be donated to two Valley crisis centers, A New Leaf and Child Crisis Center. Families who cannot attend but who would like to contribute in a special way can check out the website for details on purchasing footprints carried by other walkers for the Footprint Garden, also at the Lakeside Ramada.
Joanne Cacciatore, PhD, founder of the MISS Foundation, lists the objectives for the event on her blog drjoanne.blogspot.com: public awareness, honoring, solidarity and resource building to help raise much-needed funds so that MISS can continue worldwide outreach efforts.
Empty Strollers, Empty Shoes will offer the community a chance to come together to pay homage to families who have experienced one of life’s greatest losses – that of a child. This event will also give those families a chance to grieve together and to pay tribute to their children as they walk toward a future of remembrance and hope. — Mary Ann Bashaw
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Ann Bashaw is writing a yearlong series on “Finding Purpose in Grief.” Articles published to date include: The MISS Foundation Offers a Light at the End of Life’s Darkest Tunnel and When Birth and Death Merge. Her next installment, “Fathers Reflect on Grief,” will appear in our June 2011 issue.