Mother’s Day is just around the corner. For some, it’s not much of a celebration but a sad reminder of what they’ve lost. EmpowerHer seeks to change that.
EmpowerHer is an international nonprofit that connects children and young adults that have lost a parent. Denver is one of 10 chapters in the U.S. and this is the first year in Denver that mentors have been paired with young girls. The organization pairs women who lost their moms years ago with young girls who are just starting the grieving process, as a way to make them feel less alone in the process.
It’s raining cats and dogs on a Tuesday night in April—a perfect evening to go bowling. Carol Porter and Sidney Meyer walk into Bowlero in Littleton and are excited to knock down some pins. It is Sidney’s second time ever and she is on a mission to avoid the gutter.
Carol, a Denverite, mother, career woman, and mentor for EmpowerHer was paired in August with Sidney an 11-year-old who had recently lost her mother to cancer. They were the first match made in Colorado along with Sidney’s two sisters and their mentors.
Sitting in lane 31 after a spirited bowling match between mentor and mentee, Carol and Sidney talk about what this pairing has meant to them while chowing down on some pepperoni pizza. Carol’s mother was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was five and passed away when she was seven. She said she was lucky to have a support system of aunts and neighbors but longed for a non-relative to talk with.
“Sometimes you feel a little scared or judged if it’s someone close like a family member. So having someone to talk to outside of the family is something I always wished I had. I wish EmpowerHer existed when I was Sidney’s age,” Carol said. “As a young child who experienced mother loss, and now a mother myself, I have found a great sense of purpose in helping build a community for children who may be silently suffering the loss of their mother or father.”
Carol said the EmpowerHer events and mentorship programs remind the children they’re not alone in their grief, and that loss is survivable.
“Sidney’s like my adopted daughter, sister, friend. All of the above?” said Carol looking at Sidney. “Yeah,” Sidney replied.
Among many other titles such as Taekwondo red belt, middle sister, flutist, horseback rider, and bookworm—or as she likes to say, “Bookdragon”—Sidney is a dragon aficionado.
“Dragonette?” says Carol. “That is the correct term,” Sidney said enthusiastically.
Sidney has read the full series of Wings of Fire, a series of children’s epic dragon fantasy novels written by author Tui T. Sutherland. She often keeps Carol on her toes, quizzing her about the vast histories of the different dragons.
“Sidney loves dragons, so I’ve been learning all different things about them. There are so many different names and tribes and different superpowers,” Carol said. “Sidney asked me today in the car, ‘If I was to give you every superpower in the world, what would you do?’ I said, ‘World peace.’ Sidney said she’d rather rob a bank.”
“To start your path in villainy, you have to start early,” a giggling Sidney said.
“And then maybe you can do some good deeds,” Carol responded.
Carol and Sidney have done a myriad of activities together such as a sugar scrub-making class, a yoga class with EmpoweHer partner Athleta, a hike and picnic at Red Rocks, a visit to the iconic Denver bookstore Tattered Cover, and a quest for the best boba tea in the city. The program is extraordinarily impactful for the pair.
“These outings are a great way to connect with Carol and to talk. Just hang out. To have someone who listens to me and who I can be ridiculously silly with. Sometimes it’s nice to just get out of your own environment for a little bit,” Sidney said.
“We did pumpkin painting which was a disaster,” says Carol said, chuckling.
“It wasn’t a disaster. It was chaos and art,” says Sidney replied.
“Growing up I never had anyone who shared the experience of losing a mother. Now at 36 years old, I have this network of 15 incredible women who are just awesome and who have been through what I have been through and can understand that. I adore Sidney. She’s like, my favorite, favorite friend in the whole universe. She’s the sweetest girl ever and just so beautiful and mature. Sometimes she has to tell me to be more mature,” Carol said.
In the near future, Carol and Sidney are planning on doing a girls’ night at Sidney’s house with her two sisters and their mentors.
“We’re going to have a movie night at the house and we will tell James to go disappear. That’d be fun to kick your dad out right?” Carol jokingly asks Sidney.
“Yes. As long as we don’t burn the house down,” Sidney replied.
“We won’t. We’ve got you there. You’re the most mature one,” Carol said.
For Mother’s Day weekend, EmpowerHer is doing a luminaria event in Denver’s RiNo district among the beautiful murals. Luminarias are lanterns with a votive candle set inside a small paper bag. Participants will write messages honoring their loved ones and light the candle. The lanterns will be displayed along the alleyways of RiNo. People from around the world can purchase a luminaria for a suggested $25 donation in support of children who have experienced parental loss. All proceeds fund year-round events and mentorship and ensure all programs remain free of charge to the family.
“Mother’s Day is about celebrating the mothers who are here but also about celebrating those mothers who are no longer here and whose impact will never be forgotten. Luminara is a beautiful way to honor them,” Carol said.