ANDOVER — Even in the midst of tragedy, grieving survivors who have lost a loved one don’t forget acts of kindness or comforting words from those who try to help them.
Volunteers — the core of the caregiving for the Trauma Intervention Program of the Merrimack Valley — often cite the emotional first aid they got during a personal tragedy as a reason why they joined TIP, according to the group’s executive director and co-founder Dr. Jayan M. Landry.
Several recipients of this year’s Gift of Caring Awards presented at TIP’s 20th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet held at the Wyndham Boston Andover hotel last week cited TIP’s help in their time of personal trauma as the reason why they volunteer.
Some survivors support the program in other ways, like Joe and Joy Santoro. Their daughter Kristen was one of “the Methuen Angels” — a group of four young women from the area — who lost their lives while on a trip to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst on Oct. 3, 1998. Vicky L’Italien and Deidre Ann DiDio, of Methuen, and Elana Matczak of Windham, N.H., also died in the crash.
Metheun police called TIP and requested three volunteers to organize at the station along with other officers, state police and clergy to make the death notifications. The volunteers also offered ongoing support to the grieving families after receiving the tragic news.
“The Santoro family are indeed role models for healing grief,” Landry said.
“Their efforts in establishing the Kristen Joy Santoro Memorial Scholorship fund to give back to the community is one way they chose to honor their daughter. They are heroes in their own rite,” Landry said.
Landry noted the couple has been donating $1,000 a year from the fund for several years. Their support earned them a “Gift of Caring Award.”
They also supported TIP’s healing garden by erecting a bench in honor of their daughter. The garden is at Henry P. Schruender Memorial Park in Methuen on 3.2 acres of conservation land at the end of Calumet Road as a lasting tribute to the late Brenda Waller, a long-time TIP volunteer who continued to assist victims of traumatic or tragic events while fighting a decade-long battle with cancer until her death Nov. 2, 2006.
Waller’s daughter Lindsay, who is also a nurse and a TIP volunteer, and Landry — who was a close friend — spearheaded the drive for the healing garden. “A number of individuals offered time, money and manpower to create a healing and meditative location dotted with memorial benches,” Landry said.
“A few years back, one special Methuen citizen contacted TIP after she read an article in the Eagle Tribune and offered her ongoing efforts to coordinate the next phase of the garden,” she said, referring to Ruth Ann LeHane — another citizen honored by TIP with a “Gift of Caring Award” for volunteering to coordinate the next phase of the healing garden.
“Ruth Ann having endured a number of personal losses came to know the value of a community healing garden,” Landry said.
LeHane said she had “no idea what TIP was and never knew an organization like this even existed.”
TIP maintains the healing garden from contributions and proceeds from one of its fundraising efforts set for next month. It will sponsor its 6th annual TIP Family 5K Run/Walk, set for Sunday, Nov. 4
The walk will begin 10:30 a.m. from the Claddagh Restaurant and Pub, 339 Canal St., Lawrence with the run scheduled to follow at 11 a.m. Pre-entry fee up until Oct. 29 is $20; post entry fee is $25. Participants can take part for free if they have $50 in pledges. Checks should be made payable to TIP of Merrimack Valley and can be mailed to TIP Family 5K, 68 Main St., Suite 8, Andover, MA 01810. Or call 978-475-8471 for details.
Others honored by TIP last week include:
Scott Arthur, a registered nurse at Lawrence General Hospital. He called TIP to respond to the hospital for the sudden death of a 71 year old man.
Theresa Susen, a registered nurse at Steward Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill. Last January, she requested TIP service to comfort the family of a 53 year old man who died from a cardiac arrest while swimming at the YMCA.
Sgt. Dan Crevier, North Andover Police Department.
Officer Evan Robitaille of the Andover Police Department.
Methuen police Captain Randy Haggar, Special Services Bureau.
TIP volunteer Ruthie Crow, for 10 years of service.
TIP volunteer Wendy Delaney, for 10 years of service.