August 1, 2012

Beach to Beacon: It's a race, but a whole lot more for center

The Center for Grieving Children will be the beneficiary of this year's road race.

By Mike Lowe
Staff Writer

Kelly Casey was only 15 and a freshman at Deering High when her father died from a heart attack, prompting her to question everything that had mattered in her life.

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Kelly Casey was helped by the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, and now, 10 years later, is ready to start giving back.

John Ewing/ Staff Photographer

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WHEN: 8 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: 6.2-mile course winding through Cape Elizabeth, from near Crescent Beach to the Portland Head Light.

Then she started going to the Center for Grieving Children in Portland and found she wasn't alone, that there were many others her age suffering from the same anxieties.

Ten years later, Casey will give a little something back to the center. Saturday morning she will run the TD Beach to Beacon 10-kilometer road race for the first time, representing the Center for Grieving Children. The center was chosen as the race beneficiary and will receive a $30,000 donation from the TD Charitable Foundation.

In addition, the center was allotted 50 slots for runners, each of whom will raise money through donations. One of them was Casey.

"I was honored when they asked me and proud as well," said Casey, who graduated from Deering in 2005, studied English and analytical writing at Syracuse, and is back living in Portland. "I'm also a little nervous. I know how devastating (a sudden loss) can be. I'm proud of myself for getting through it. I'm so glad the center was there for me as a child."

The center, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has served more than 65,000 children, teens and families.

Maureen Keeley has been a volunteer facilitator at the center for five years. Every Thursday she counsels a group of children between 9 and 13 who have suffered a loss. She lets the children dictate how the sessions go.

Sometimes the children will talk, other times not, so she will try something else, maybe arts and crafts, to get them to deal with their feelings.

"These children have all had a loss and are trying to work through it," said Keeley, who works as a senior vice president at Professional Disability Associates, a disability consulting firm in Portland. "At the center, they are around people with similar losses and it is very helpful to them We just do a combination of things to make them feel comfortable and allow them to do whatever they have to do to deal with a loss."

Keeley, 52, also will run in her seventh Beach to Beacon. "I've finished," she said when asked how she's done -- and this time, she'll run for something more than herself.

"It's really in honor of the families," she said. "To bear witness to what they're going through in a very difficult time and allowing me into their lives is an amazing gift. I really feel honored to be part of the center and part of the Beach to Beacon to raise money for the center."

Charities throughout Maine apply to the TD Charitable Foundation to become the race beneficiary. In addition to the $30,000 donation, the money raised by the 50 runners allotted to the charity could double that amount. The charity is then allowed 25 slots per year to raise additional money.

"It can have a significant impact over years," said David Weatherbie, race president.

Beyond that, it brings the beneficiary into the public eye.

"This really is perfect timing for us," said Anne Lynch, the executive director of the Center for Grieving Children. "This being our 25th anniversary, we wanted to get the word out to the community (about the center's services). And this is a way."

The center employs 10 people with 125 weekly volunteers.

"We provide our services for free; we don't receive any state or federal funding," said Lynch. "We are supported by the community. We serve the community. And this is another example of us being embraced by the community."

Casey said she stays in touch with children in her group.

"The center provided a framework for me to heal, which is awesome when your life becomes so unstable," she said.

Representing the center is part of a new chapter in that life.

"At this point I'd like to start giving back," she said. "Maybe down the road, I'll get into mentoring."

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

Twitter: MikeLowePPH


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