GLEN ELLYN, Ill. — With Mother’s Day just days away, a group is working to help young girls cope on the loss of their own moms.

The group “empowerHER” started after a Boston-area woman lost her mom to cancer when she was only nine. Her feeling of isolation became so great that as a grown woman, she decided she needed to help others.

Flash forward to today and hundreds of girls who feel the same way are taking part in “Empower-Her.”

Ali Thomas is grown up now, but the Glen Ellyn resident remembers all too well what losing her mother was like when she was just 17.

“It’s one of those things, when you lose your mom at a young age,” said Thomas. “It seems everyone knows, but nobody wants to talk to you about it.”

After her mother died, isolation set in for Thomas. Her good friend Cara lost her mom as a young girl too. In 2013, Cara started “empowerHER.”

“Cara lost her mom when she was 9 years old from breast cancer,” Thomas said. “Really felt alone in her grief and later in life said ‘I want to change that.'”

Any girl or woman up to 24 years of age can sign up. Before the pandemic, year-round events used to connect girls in the same situation; motherless and feeling alone.

“Hiking, cooking classes, actor workshops, yoga, all sorts of retreats to get these girls together, be in the same room, look across the room at each other and say, ‘I understand you,'” Thomas said.

For a year, events have been virtual and mentorship programs are too.

“Once a week text, saying just checking in, making sure you are ok,” Thomas said. “It can be having dinner every Sunday night at their mentor’s house.”

But as May 9 fast approaches, Thomas reminds us all the healing process is often halted this year.

“In a girl’s life, who lost their moms, these weeks leading up to Mother’s Day are a tough time,” Thomas said.

So “empowerHER” is focusing on some bright and tangible spots right now during the pandemic. The organization committed doing more to help and has expanded to ten cities across the U.S.

They also start a campaign for the first time. A $25 donation for a loved one will help light the way toward healing this Mother’s Day.

“The thought is: let’s light up the lake, let’s illuminate the lake,” Thomas said. “Luminaria is a whimsical display of personalized bags honoring and memorializing our moms.”

Thomas will be floating them in Lake Ellyn in Glen Ellyn this year. They can be in honor of a loved one who is still with us today or in memory of mothers lost.

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