Spring 2018 Newsletter
Rainbows for All Children 
35th Anniversary
I'm a very new facilitator and now site coordinator for my Rainbows organization. Recently I visited the [Rainbows HQ] Evanston office with some concerns. Expecting to find unfriendly, uncaring, out-of-touch staff (as I had been warned by other facilitators), I was so delighted to meet Laura and Paula who were very warm, caring, and dedicated to helping us help our grieving children! They DO understand our situations and are willing to help us in any way possible. I'm excited to work with them to make Rainbows better at my site and would encourage others to reach out to them for assistance. 
 
--Henrietta Christenson, St. Raphael Catholic Church, Naperville, IL
** IMPORTANT Reminders**
FOR FACILITATORS  
  1. A team from Northwestern University is helping develop better ways for facilitators to feel supported by headquarters, and communicate with one another. If you would like to submit your suggestions, please email Cindy Wu at cindywu2019@u.northwestern.edu. You may be contacted by them as well--please be as forthcoming as possible with your feedback. We want to improve the program and offer you as much support and as many resources as possible!
  2. Tired of the same activities? Looking for books to read with kids? Need resources for families? We have three areas with a variety of resources for facilitators and families: the Resources page of the website, The Resource Center of the training, and the Resources page of the Facilitator Dashboard. Please be sure to check out what is available to you!
  3. The Rainbows App is now active on both Android and Apple platforms! Go to Playstore or iTunes on your mobile device and search Rainbows for All Children. Please check it out, try it with your groups, and let us know what you think!
  4. We would also like your help coming up with keywords people might use to search for the Rainbows App. Please add your suggestions to this list or email us at info@rainbows.org.
  5. Current contests:  Rainbows participants can create a design for a Rainbows greeting card AND/OR share their story of "Why Rainbows Is Important to Me." Entries for both are due by September 30th, 2018. Also, the facilitator who recruits the highest number of new, certified facilitators to Rainbows in 2018 will receive a special gift basket. Love being a Rainbows facilitator? Share what it means to you with others and help create more sites to help even more children. Let us know who you have recruited and we will keep a tally:  info@rainbows.org. So far, Mary Curley from Stamford, CT is in the lead!
  6. Sunbeams Facilitators: check out the new Emoti dolls in the Rainbows online store. They are created by a partner organization and are great for young children, anyone with disabilities, or anyone who has difficulty expressing emotions.
Additional questions or concerns? 
Please contact Paula Carter at 
paula.carter@rainbows.org or 847-952-1770, Ext. 310.
FREE Program in Illinois!

JourneyCare has been a long-time community supporter of Rainbows. They have partnered with  Main Stay Therapeutic Farm   to offer special one-day grief programs for teens ages 13-17 coping with the loss of a loved one. 


These are FREE for teens to attend and are offered from 10am-2pm on June 9th and August 11th in Richmond, IL. You can cont act them directl y for more information  and/or to register. They even include a pizza lunch!

 RSVP to A llison Hanley 
       at 224-770-2481
"The Mask You Live In" follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America's narrow definition of masculinity.

Click here to watch the trailer.

"We all have a role to play to create a healthier society. Will you take the challenge?"
Spotlight on Our Fantastic Featured Facilitators 
Ellen Berry
Ellen Berry is a relatively new facilitator at St. Mary in Huntley, IL. Starting just last year she's run two groups so far, but she has already made a big impression. Ann Marcheschi, lead facilitator at St. Mary, recently submitted a facilitator nomination for Ellen in recognition of her exceptional talent. She wrote:

Ellen has been working with the older kids-7th and 8th graders. In all the years I have been doing this I have never seen a facilitator change the hearts of the kids like she did. The older ones are a tough group! They did not want to be there and made sure everyone knew it. By the time the session ended, however, those kids did not want it to be over and signed up for another 12 weeks. I saw her help them with issues they were facing, she gave them tools to tackle the problems, and they went from sadness to smiles; they were even communicating with Ellen about how they used their tools to help their situations at home. The younger kids like to be at Rainbows, but the older ones are difficult. Ellen truly helped them to start healing.
 
Perhaps it is her training as a Licensed Professional Counselor, or her work at Holistic Care for Women and Families, or maybe she is just one of those rare individuals who can really connect with middle school students; whatever it is, Ellen seems to know the secret.
 
As Ann explained, "Two of the three students in Ellen's group adamantly did not want to join a support group. By the third meeting, they had even almost convinced their parents not to bring them anymore. I begged the parents to make them stick it out, hoping they would eventually find it worthwhile. Sure enough, we saw a complete change in their demeanor half way through the session. By the end, all three didn't want the group to end."

Ellen first learned about Rainbows 17 years ago from a friend who recommended it for her children after they lost a close loved one. She explains, "Like many parents I attempted to help my children process their grief on our own, but I myself was so caught up in my own grief from the loss, that it made it difficult to support them or even understand (from a child's perspective) what they needed. Also my children knew that the loss had a very hard emotional impact on me, and they did not want to see their mom sad when they would share their feelings, so like most kids they just kept it to themselves."

Seeing how effective counseling and support groups can be during the grieving process is part of what motivated Ellen to become a counselor herself, and she was drawn to specializing in working with children and teens. "The Rainbows program was a big help to my family at that time. I had always thought that one day I would like to help support other families going through difficult challenges, and help assist others like they had done for me," she says.  In fact, she has had a variety of positions over the years working with youth: an orthodontic assistant, a classroom aide, a family crisis counselor, a co-leader of SPARCS Group Therapy, and has volunteered with after-school programs assisting children. 

"Through all of these experiences I found that most teens are at a tough age because they are working to define who they are [which is compounded] when they encounter challenges such as the loss of a loved one, parents divorcing, or deployment of a family member. They get confused, conflicted, and frustrated with those around them, as well as themselves, and sometimes just need to talk openly about their feelings with someone who will listen and care--someone who is not going to judge them, but makes them feel important and valued.  Within the Rainbows teen group I am presently facilitating, everyone gets along and feels comfortable with each other. They feel free to share their feelings and frustrations, as well as goof off a little. Within the group I allow them to be themselves and share their feelings of disappointment, hurt and how they are adapting to their new role within their family. I help promote self-discovery and work with them to talk about what they hope their future will look like--despite the adversity they presently are faced with--and what it will take for them to get there. They may have situations in life that are challenging for them at this present time, but I believe 'behind every great person there is someone who believed in them and helped guide them and support them, to find their path in life.' The group helps facilitate that for each other; I cannot take all the credit," Ellen explains.

Ellen's advice for potential facilitators is to read Suzy Yehl Marta's book,  Healing the Hurt, Restoring the Hope, The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers by Gary Chapmen, and Irvin D. Yalmon's book, The Gift of Therapy. She says, "I believe all of these books can give a facilitator insight and information on how to better support and understand teens and young adults. " 

Way to go, Ellen! Thanks for the work you do to support children and teens.

Jennette Williams
When the Linda & Rudy Slucker Center for Women, Essex County National Council for Jewish Women in NJ, extended an invitation for volunteers to participate in Rainbows, Jennette Williams quickly submitted her name. She was aware of the program's outstanding history and wanted in on the action. She felt her background both in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, and guidance counseling, would help her support the program's core values. That was in the fall of 2016, and two years later she could not be more pleased with her decision.
 
Jennette primarily works with children ages 6-8 in a Rainbows Level I group. She says, "Developmentally, this is a very crucial stage. Building peer trust and support with hands-on activities and sharing, really helps the children. They learn how to recognize the reality of change and express personal feelings, while discovering, 'I am not the only one.'" 
 
She has found that the most rewarding experiences occur when a child is shy at the onset, and after one or two sessions begins to trust enough to communicate his or her innermost feelings. She's noticed that children in her group have enjoyed and responded well to "One of a Kind Me Mobiles," "Making the Pieces Fit," sharing a "Bum" or a "Brag", and the "I Forgive You" lesson, in particular. She believes, "Every activity in the program offers a special meaning to at least one child."
 
Jennette feels Rainbows is particularly impactful because for many children it provides a safe environment, away from the source of their pain and anxiety. They are able to make new friends and appreciate that what they say stays in the room, making it safe for them to share. One particularly memorable experience she had was with a young boy in her group. He was always distant and aloof when he arrived, and did not express much interest in Rainbows even after several meetings. By the end of the 12 weeks, however, his attitude had changed and he was happy and talkative. While Jennette was glad to see him become more engaged, she never knew the reason for the change in his behavior until another facilitator shared what he had told her: he started to enjoy coming, because he liked his facilitator! Imagine her surprise and delight.
 
Her advice for someone considering becoming a Rainbows facilitator is to remind them that adults, and even children, value the integrity of others. "Therefore," she says, "It is important to honestly ask oneself, 'What is my intent? Why do I want to do this?' before simply jumping in." To that end, she encourages those who feel passionate about helping to support children saying, "I believe that we often have no idea how far-reaching our interactions can be and how they can influence another  person's, thoughts, actions, and goals."
 
Thanks for all you do, Jennette, to help so many children!
Do you know an OUTSTANDING facilitator who deserves to be recognized?
If you would like to nominate a Rainbows Facilitator to be our next "Featured Facilitator" please complete this form.
Children Helping One Another for Mental Health

May 10th is Mental Health Awareness Day
In recognition of this important event, and in response to the recent school shootings, Rainbows for All Children is creating a video of children to encourage helping and healing.
 
We will be videotaping children and teens responding to the question, 
"What would you do or say to help another child who is hurting?"
 
If you would like to send in a video, to be added to the collection, please be sure to use a neutral background with no personal identifying features (i.e. home address or a school name on the wall, etc.) for the child's protection. Please ask the child the question PRIOR to starting the video, and only shoot him/her answering the question. Videos should be emailed to laura.lindroth@rainbows.org by May 5th
 
The video will potentially be shared on social media, our website, and YouTube, and may be used at some of our fundraisers or other speaking engagements. When you email, we will send you a release form to complete and send back.  Thank you for your consideration and I hope you will encourage child(ren) and teens you know to participate!
"Rainbows has given my son words, feelings and others' experiences to help him express and live through the challenges of his life right now. I know this has given him strong foundation in accepting life's challenges and is giving him tools to properly deal with them." 
--father of a 5 year old Rainbows participant
Youth Helping Youth Through the Storms of Life
When people contact us wanting to volunteer with Rainbows, we of course encourage them to consider becoming a support group facilitator. However, we recognize not everyone is able to make that kind of commitment. To provide an easier but still significant way for people to get involved, we recently started a project to help increase awareness of our organization. We asked youth from the Evanston community to make bead bracelets and write notes of encouragement for children struggling with grief. The support was overwhelming! Elementary, middle and high school students immediately responded to the call to action, wanting to contribute, and we are sending their bracelets and notes to boys and girls in our Rainbows groups all around the country.

The project has allowed volunteers to feel like they are making a difference in someone's life, it has helped children in Rainbows feel less alone, and overall it propagates the idea that we are all connected. There are many children in our nation who are struggling to feel like they belong, to feel like someone cares about them, to feel less alone. Receiving a bracelet and a note from a peer can possibly be just that small gesture of support they need-that momentary feeling that someone does care and has given them a gift from the heart. Here is one story from a Rainbows site in New York that touched all of us deeply:

The little boy wearing blue joined Rainbows a year ago along with his brother, Eli, after they unexpectedly lost their mom. Tragically, last Christmas, little Eli also passed away. His brother was left reeling from such a significant loss, but he has continued to come to Rainbows support group meetings every week this winter. One day in February, a package arrived from Rainbows headquarters full of bracelets and notes. The little boy randomly picked a bracelet from the pile and read the note. Imagine his surprise and delight when he read the words, " With love from Eli."

Whether you believe in Divine intervention or not, whether you believe things are random or happen for a reason, the pure joy this little boy received from another child thousands of miles away cannot be denied. Needless to say, he treasures both the bracelet and the note; more importantly, it helped him be able to once again feel the love of his brother, Eli, whom he misses dearly.

Children who are grieving a loss need support. Oftentimes family members are also grieving and therefore may be less able to provide the necessary care a child needs to get through this storm of life. Rainbows for All Children can be the umbrella to shield them from the storm. We help guide youth through so they can see there is hope, there is light amidst the darkness, and very often there may even, at some point, be a rainbow.

If your Rainbows site would like to receive bracelets and notes, please email us at info@rainbows.org and specify how many you would like and for what gender.
May SALE on Rainbows workbooks!!

Please enjoy 50% off all Level 4 workbooks during the month of MAY

It takes a special kind of facilitator to work with middle school students in 7th and 8th grade.
We understand that and commend those who chose to support this unique and often challenging group of teens. In recognition, we want to offer our sites this discount to show our support.

Thank you for all you do!
May 8th Balloon Release for Natalia
A very moving ceremony frequently incorporated into Celebrate Me Day for many Rainbows groups is the balloon release. The ritual allows grieving youth to say goodbye to the loved ones they have lost (either literally or figuratively), and to realize afterwards that things will be okay again. It is a way of physically releasing the emotions they carry from the loss.

On May 8th, a nonprofit called Natalia's Endless Love will be holding a balloon release to honor the life of Natalia, an inspiring young girl who passed away from leukemia complications in 2013 at the age of 10. Her mother, who founded the organization, has asked people around the country to release purple balloons that evening in memory of their own loved ones who have died.

We mention this event because most of us who are affiliated with Rainbows know how valuable an experience like this can be to the grieving process. For those of you who facilitate groups, perhaps your children can benefit from being a part of the event for Natalia. Just as they receive support from their peers, perhaps they might also feel connected to Natalia and her loved ones by the shared experience.

Natalia's Endless Love will also release balloons on behalf of loved ones if you provide them with a name and personalized message (and a suggested $5 donation). To learn more about this event for Natalia's Endless Love, visit www.nataliasendlesslove.com. Also, if you do participate please consider taking photos and share them with us and Natalia's Endless Love. We will both post them on our websites and social media platforms!
Song We Love This Quarter:
Live Forever by Drew Holcomb
"...Take courage when the road is long,
Don't ever forget you're never alone..."

Also check out Drew speaking on TEDx Memphis: 
Combining Animal Therapy with Rainbows
Attending a "read to a dog" program at a local library, 
  one little boy with autism chose to read privately in the 
   corner of the library. May followed him, sat down, and 
listened as he read her book after book--not wanting to stop.
One of the most popular faces at the St. Mary Rainbows site in Huntley, IL is not one of their facilitators, but she offers a tremendous amount of support in her own way. "May" is an 11-year old therapy dog that Rainbows facilitator, Steve Schwertfeger, has owned since she was two months old. When his mom was in the hospital toward the end of her life, Steve would tell her stories about May to cheer her up. Later, an opportunity presented to train May as a therapy dog. Realizing the healing benefit dogs can provide to people in various ways, Steve jumped at the chance and found that May was a natural. She is a now regular participant in every meeting of Steve's Rainbows Level 3 group. Trained to provide therapy to residents in nursing homes and hospitals, May's latest gig is helping children in  Rainbows.

    


"Seeing how much of an impact May makes on people really makes my day," Steve says.

May was initially brought to a Celebrate Me Day at St. Mary, where several of their groups joined together to recognize the hard work the children had put into healing, and to celebrate their accomplishments. The facilitators figured the Celebrate Me Day would be a good place to bring the dog since it is more of a party atmosphere and it might be fun to have an animal for the children to enjoy. They became a bit concerned, however, when they discovered that one little boy was very fearful of dogs. Steve cautiously worked with the boy, slowly encouraging him to try petting gentle May. By the end of the party, the boy was playing with her like an old friend and had completely overcome his initial fright.

Ann Marcheschi, lead facilitator at St. Mary, says she feels having May there can even help some of the parents and caregivers when they drop off their child at Rainbows for the first time.

"It can be intimidating," she explains, "walking into a room full of strangers, not knowing exactly what you signed up for or whether you can trust these people with your child. When they see May, though, they generally feel more at ease. Suddenly they are smiling and petting the dog, and their nervousness just seems to go away. She's a great icebreaker for that first meeting."

"Several times during our Rainbow sessions, I have seen children just walk away from our group discussion and go sit next to May and pet her for several minutes," Steve shares. "I never ask them why they left; perhaps during our discussion a bad memory came up and leaving was a way for them to handle the feeling in a way that they could accept."
It is well known that animals can provide comfort to people in distress. While it is not surprising how much May is beloved at St. Mary, it is rather astonishing just how much of an impact she has had on children who are not even in Steve's group. Children in other groups who meet at the same time often bring treats for "their dog," hoping for time to pet and stroke her soft fur. The simple act of petting such a gentle, loving animal provides comfort to children who are often feeling very uncomfortable.

Merlin, the therapy horse, in the church's foyer
When they saw the effect May had, the parish church generously offered to pay to also bringin a therapy pony from a nearby therapy center to work with the Rainbows groups. While the pony is too small for the children to ride, she is just perfect for petting and even little enough to come indoors in their tiled foyer when the weather turns cold!

If your site is interested in bringing in a therapy animal, Rainbows HQ encourages you to find out what is in your community. There may be a place you can partner with to bring in animals, often at little to no cost, to offer that unique support only they can provide. Please be sure to seek permission from parents and caregivers ahead of time, just in case there are allergies or other issues of which to be aware, but overall therapy animals can often be a tremendous benefit to children in Rainbows.
NEW RAINBOWS SITES
Please welcome the eight new sites that have joined us since February!
  • Winthrop Harbor School District #1- Winthrop Harbor, IL 
  • Forest Park School District 91- Forest Park, IL 
  • Elgin High School- Elgin, IL 
  • Westview Hills Middle School- Willowbrook, IL 
  • Onahan Elementary- Chicago, IL 
  • Todd Hall Elementary- Lincolnwood, IL 
  • East End United Community Center- Uniontown, PA
  • South Carolina Connections Academy- Columbia, SC
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