Ciara Meyer

In 1996, the year Tu Nidito began grief-support services for Tucson-area children and their families, the organization worked with 12 children. According to assistant director Ciara Meyer, that number has grown to more than 800 children per year, who come to the organization for help dealing with the death of a parent or loved one, or help coping with their own diagnosis of a serious illness. A Beaucoup Congé is hosting a bead-party fundraiser for the nonprofit on Friday, Sept. 11, at 355 E. Fort Lowell Road. Make a piece of jewelry for $40 per adult or $5 per child. For more information about Tu Nidito, call 322-9155, or visit tunidito.org.

What does Tu Nidito do?

We help children whose lives have been impacted by serious illness or grief. ... In 2008, we started a new program specifically for children with a parent diagnosed with cancer.

Are children the only ones helped when they come to Tu Nidito?

Illness and grief impact the entire family, and not just the children, so we know we need to help the entire family unit. Parents receive their own support. We provide them with the grief support they need, but also how they can help their children. We are not always prepared to explain these things to our children. Adults need help to figure out how to do that.

Do people come here through a specific referral?

Anyone can call us and say they need our services or know someone who does, but a majority of our referrals come from teachers and school counselors. When a parent has died or is diagnosed with cancer, those referrals come from physicians and hospital social workers.

How did the organization start?

Tu Nidito was really formed by a group of people—physicians, businesses and, primarily, parents who had a child diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. When it was time to leave the hospital, there were no services available ... outside of the hospital, where they really needed it. There was a little boy named Jimmy Busey who had a rare type of a brain tumor, and he had spent most of his life in the hospital. At 6, he was sent home to live out the last few weeks of his life, but the hospital was his comfortable place. On a sectional sofa in the corner, his family made this little nest for him. They called it Jimmy's Little Nest. It's where everyone would come and visit him. His mother was very vocal in that: "There needs to be support for us when we leave the hospital." When it came time to find a name, (Your Little Nest) was suggested, but in Spanish—Tu Nidito. That's how we got our name.

How do you charge for your services?

We do not charge for any of our services. Anyone who needs us can come to us without cost.

Then how do you get the funds needed to operate?

Mostly through individual donations or fundraisers through special events.

What's your annual budget?

It costs $1,000 a year to help a child, and we help more than 800 children. We do it all with funds from the community. ... We have 12 staff members. Ten are full-time, but we are only able to help as many children as we do with more than 175 volunteers.

Do you do any follow-up with your clients?

We do regular assessments that we complete twice a year with each of our family members. ... We want to do long-term evaluations and recently received a small grant. ... We'll invite (clients) to come back and find out what the long-term benefits are of grief support. Finding past clients may not be too difficult. Often, they come back and volunteer, telling us, "You've changed my life. How can I give back?"

This new program in which you work with children whose parents are diagnosed with cancer—how did it start?

For years, we'd often get calls from mothers diagnosed with cancer. They wanted support for their children. We didn't want to say no, but we had no choice. For a long time, we wanted to do this, but didn't have funding or space. In 2006, we became an Angel Charity. The ($714,357 in) funding allowed us to expand on our same site. We built an adjacent building, increased parking and added a playground. It was a needed program, but what we like to point out is that none of our services are duplicated in the community. ... No one else helps children and families deal with grief and loss.

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