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Grief group celebrates life in more ways than one

New Beginnings Grief and Loss Support Group is marking its fourth anniversary and celebrating its latest success.

The group raised money for the night-long American Cancer Society Relay For Life in St. Francois County in July. They raised more than $2,000 to earn them the designation as a Bronze Team. Team members received certificates marking their accomplishments during a luncheon Tuesday at Southfork Family Restaurant in Desloge.

&#8220It was 97 degrees when we started walking that evening,” recalled group leader Kathy Grogan-Bleckler. &#8220Our senior member said ‘I can’t walk, but I can cheer lead’ and our youngest member was 15 and he really came in handy in the middle of the night. It was an incredible experience of people coming together.”

She said it was especially meaningful for members of the group who had lost family members to cancer.

&#8220It’s people like you who make the Relay For Life a success,” said Cristina Howard, American Cancer Society. &#8220We couldn’t do it without you. I look forward to seeing you again next year.”

The team is already raising money for the 2006 Relay by getting autographs for a guitar. Names they have so far include country music stars Ricky Van Shelton, Josh Turner, John Anderson, George Jones and Pam Tillis. Donations of $1 may be made to Grogan-Bleckler at C.Z.Boyer and Son Funeral Home. The guitar will be given away at the Relay set for July 21-22, 2006.

&#8220We got a much bigger head start than the three weeks we had to raise money this year,” said Grogan-Bleckler. She said one of their members had seen a story in April by Teresa Ressel about North County teacher Pat Burch and her battle with cancer. Burch received the 2005 Excellence in Education Recognition Award for her work with students who have special needs. New Beginnings decided to make a donation to the Relay in Burch’s honor. Having read stories about the Relay in the Daily Journal, they called the paper to find out how to donate. After a Relay organizer met with them, they decided not just to give money, but to form a team to take part.

At Tuesday’s luncheon, they thanked local businesses who helped them raise money, as well as those who support the group all year long. The businesses singled out included: Southfork, Belgrade State Bank, Mineral Area College, Froggy 98 Radio, WIL Radio, CLF Auction, Plummer Family Theatre, Marler Music and the Daily Journal. They also honored Burch who had first inspired them. She was awed.

&#8220It’s been a terrible experience for the whole summer,” she said of her bout with cancer, &#8220but I’m doing a lot better. It’s just incredible to think you sponsored me.”

Charlie Boyer praised the group and Grogan-Bleckler.

&#8220It’s your positive attitude that has helped create so much of what we’re doing right now,” he said. &#8220People often refer to New Beginnings as ‘family.’”

There are two grief support groups that meet weekly. To find out more, call any Boyer Funeral Home.

&#8220Ted Boyer had a vision for this support group,” Grogan-Bleckler explained. &#8220He first planned it to be ‘widow to widow.’ When he died, his brother Charlie picked up and added to it so that now it reaches out to anyone who has suffered a loss.”

The group also thanked Ellen Dirnberger, statewide coordinator for AARP’s Grief and Loss Programs. She called the New Beginnings group, &#8220the best one in Missouri.”

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