Creating a bridge of caring

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CaringBridge was born online in 1997 after my friends JoAnn and Darrin had a premature baby named Brighid. That first website allowed Brighid’s family to communicate with loved ones by posting regular journal entries about their health journey. Family members and friends responded with messages of hope and encouragement. The site served as a bridge of caring between Brighid’s parents and their concerned loved ones. Indeed, it was not only a bridge but a lifeline.

Sadly, after a nine-day struggle, Brigid died. But despite her short life, she made a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world. The name CaringBridge grew organically out of the experience of “caring for Brighid.”

It was obvious to me that this online connection could help other families experiencing a life or health event to share what’s happening without the burden of having to call dozens of individuals to repeat the details. It allows families to focus their energies on what matters most.

CaringBridge was a personal-health social network, seven years before the arrival of Facebook. Since its beginnings, hundreds of thousands of individual CaringBridge sites have been activated, generating billions of site visits. Every day, CaringBridge brings together more than half a million people. It’s available to anyone, anywhere, at no cost.

On a daily basis, I hear how CaringBridge has impacted people’s lives. My own appreciation for the power of CaringBridge grew exponentially when I started sites for my 94-year-old grandma, Bessie, and for my mother, Bonnie, who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 1998. In 2001, I reactivated my mother’s site when she was stricken with liver cancer, which took her life that year. Those intensely emotional firsthand experiences spurred me on even more.

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel blessed to know that the work I do brings comfort, love and strength to others in their hour of need. The overwhelming majority of users say CaringBridge made their health journey easier. I have learned how essential the power of community is to the healing process.

Sona Mehring is founder and CEO of the global nonprofit organization, based in Eagan, MN, and author of “Hope Conquers All.”

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