In January, Downingtown resident Kelly Ward Becker was named the executive director of the Family Lives On Foundation, a Chester County-based nonprofit that keeps traditions between a parent and a child going once the parent has passed. Becker joined the board in 2013, after spending her career in various positions, including associate director of development for the USO world headquarters and international director of sales for Pan Pacific Hotels and Resorts. This year marks the organization’s 20th anniversary.
MLT: Was working with children something you always wanted to do?
KWB: No. I lost my dad when I was 37, and my daughter was born the same year. I went through a huge emotional time, and it really affected my family. People don’t like to talk about grief. That was the hard part for me—I wanted to talk about my dad, but I knew if I brought his name up, everybody would break down. Imagine a 9-year-old kid carrying that around.
MLT: How does the process work?
KWB: We try to have each member of the family have his or her own tradition. When children lose a parent, they feel very out of control. All the choices have been taken away from them. What we try to do with the program is put the power back in their hands. We give them the opportunity to talk about the parent who died.
MLT: Is it hard for children to remember a tradition?
KWB: Sometimes they know right away. Part of what our volunteers and our program managers do is get into that grainy detail. They ask broad questions and narrow down from there. For example, when you and Dad built Legos, did you build them on the table or on the floor? Sometimes it’s really getting down to those minor details that makes the difference.
MLT: What are your goals for your first year?
KWB: I think if I can take Family Lives On and give them some presence on the national stage, then I will have done what I set out to do. There are so many children in the country, and if I can reach even a portion of them, I will be successful.
MLT: What about a long-term goal?
KWB: Making an annual tradition as a therapeutic tool across everybody’s lives, so someday, celebrating a tradition for a loved one who died will be a normal course of grief.
MLT: What is the most satisfying part of your work?
KWB: On a daily basis, we get the feedback from the families. I don’t mind working long hours because the end result is a child having joy.
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