It seems there is a lot of faith circling around Denise O’Neill, in both the spiritual and practical sense.
O’Neill is founder and executive director of Good Grief Resource Centre, which provides signature programs for empowering children, youth, adults and families to reconcile the myriad of feelings associated with the grief that comes from significant loss. O’Neil, who has a background in early childhood education and once ran a home daycare business, started the centre after researching her own personal feelings of loss after the death of her grandfather.
“There is such a need in the community and there is so little awareness about the impact of grief,” O’Neill said. “We know from studies that, in children, if the grief isn’t resolved, it is carried with them in their later years.”
Earlier this year, O’Neill — who has always fought to keep her centre afloat in the wake of difficult financial times — turned to London Community Foundation (LCF) in hopes of receiving a grant that would help keep alive her dream of helping bereaved children and families.
The foundation exists to match up donors with charities that match their individual goals. In the case of O’Neill and Good Grief Resource Centre, that match was found in the Faith Tilk Memorial Fund. The Tilk family created the fund in memory of their daughter Faith, who happened to share a very important date with O’Neill.
“I read about Faith, she died just before turning nine years old. It was very random, she had appendicitis. She actually died on my birthday, Nov. 20. Which is also, for Canadians, it is the Day of the Child,” O’Neill said. “There is such a scarcity of funding for charities these days. That’s why opportunities like this are huge and it didn’t require some big funding application either.”
O’Neill is quick to thank the foundation for its support while Roxanne McClenaghan, LCF manager of communications, is even faster to say the foundation exists to help charities such as Good Grief.
“The donor directed funds we have, many people turn to us when they want to start their own foundation. Each year, we meet with that family or person or business, and try to connect them with charitable initiatives that fit the legacy they are trying to create within their own foundations,” McClenaghan said. “The Tilk family is interested in creating a legacy for youth and children based programs through the Faith Tilk Memorial Fund. So this charity appealed to them for that reason. It offered families a chance to grieve through that family based approach.”
The $5,000 grant to Good Grief will provide for extra hours offered during the holiday season as well as contribute to services offered year round. Part of the donation will also be used in support of Good Grief’s day camp for children.
“I opened up the letter and screamed. I was crying, I did the happy dance,” O’Neil said of receiving her funding letter back on Dec. 6. “When you talk Faith and everything, it was clear my needs were being met.”
The Faith Tilk Memorial Fund is one of several named funds within LCF that contribute to what McClenaghan describes as the “smart and caring community” that everyone hopes to be a part of. Donor-directed named funds at the foundation account for over $1 million in grants each year to local charitable causes. Overall, McClenaghan estimates the foundation is closing in on approximately $2 million in grants
Last year, McClenaghan said, there were about 350 grants and about 251 charitable organizations.
“The need is growing always. What it says is that we are holding strong, in terms of the foundation, giving what we can to people who apply to us for funding. If we have the funding, it is out the door,” McClenaghan said. “The foundation is a good place to find a market for the money they want to give.”
St. Michael’s Parish, on Cheapside Street, provides a complimentary space for Good Grief to operate from. Anyone in need of counseling is invited to contact the centre at 519-697-4541 or visit www.patchforkids.ca.
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