Co-Presidents’ Message – February 2022

Co-Presidents’ Message – February 2022

The iconic and often-quoted honey-loving Disney bear Winnie the Pooh has been credited as saying “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Since my daughter Samantha Rose passed away on June 12, 2009 at the age of 3, this thought has always stuck with me and served as a mantra or credo of sorts. It’s a reminder for me of the tremendous impact Sammi made on our lives in the short time she was here. Sammi was funny, wise and kind; she was my baby girl with a gorgeous smile and golden pigtails; she had a gentle spirit and warm soul. Grieving her loss has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. While I’ll grieve Sammi’s loss forever, that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel and share Sammi’s love and spirit all around or that grief and joy can’t co-exist.

In the depths of my grief journey – as I was attending COPE monthly parent support groups, I never would have fathomed that I would end up in the position of being co-president of the nonprofit organization that was offering those groups. As I have come to learn in my time grieving and re-building, there is no more important cause than to….help families with their grief by being able to share it with other people that could possibly understand…provide families with the services and tools to allow them to heal emotionally and spiritually…help spread awareness and make it okay to talk about grief (and child and sibling loss) and mental and physical health. These are my goals. With the help of the COPE community, our impact can be (even more) tremendous! 


– Larry

Co-Presidents’ Message – January 2022

The concept of a new year and new beginnings has almost always been lost on me.  I feel the same way about birthdays.  I remember when I was younger, I would wake up on my birthday and my parents and relatives would ask me if I felt a year older.  Of course I didn’t feel a year older, after all, I was only 10 hours older than I was when I went to bed the night before.  It can be difficult to really experience the passing of time, for ourselves, when we only acknowledge the accumulation of our time, on our birthdays.  One night I went to bed and I was 9 years old.  When I woke up this morning, I was 40 years old. I feel older this morning than I did 31 years ago, but all the days in between? I don’t know if I was actively keeping track. 

I remember this time last year, people seemed so excited for 2021- for no reason other than it wouldn’t be 2020.  But what did that mean?  The difference between 2020 and 2021 was quite literally the passing of 1 second.  Did we all really think that the passing of one second on a clock was going to undo everything we experienced in 2020?  Did we believe that when we woke up on January 1, 2021 we would all feel differently?  I think we wanted to believe that.  I think we hoped for that.  More than anything, really, I think we all hoped life would just be better in 2021; maybe even go back to feeling, dare I say, normal? 

That concept isn’t specific to 2020 heading into 2021, but it really does highlight how much we glorify looking forward to something- even if we don’t know what it is.  Or how much we unknowingly look to the future to deliver us something better.  Or sometimes, how comforting it can be to look anywhere else, for anything else, as long as it’s not where we are, what we have, or what we feel right now.  I think it might be impossible to experience ourselves moment to moment all the time (I say “might” because I don’t believe in impossible), and even if it is possible, I’m not sure that’s the best thing for any of us.  A little bit of balance can go a very long way. 

We all woke up this morning to a new month in a new year, but remember, yesterday, last month, and last year are only a few seconds behind us.  We will never be able to control time- it will continue to pass whether we experience the minutes and hours of our days or if we only really happen to notice when the calendar flips from one month or year to the next.  What we can control is what we do with and how we spend our time.  I’ll be honest- I want to be way better at that.  I deserve (we all deserve) to feel like I am living my days and not just existing on auto-pilot.  I also have to keep in mind that one day I’ll see my older brother again and will have to explain to him why I didn’t do so many of the things I wanted to do with all of the time I was given. He was a big guy so it’s a conversation I’d like to avoid if I could.

So it’s January 1, 2022 and I wish all of you a happy and a healthy new…day. 

– Jen

Larry Mergentime and Jen Schwartz are COPE Co-Presidents

To our COPE Families – end of year appeal

To our COPE families,

I am sure that many of you have had your fill of COPE email over the last few days. For all nonprofits, end of year appeals for financial support are our way of assuring that we can provide programs and services for the next year.

COPE, helping bereaved families mourning the loss of a child for over 20 years, is deeply committed to helping not only the families who need us now, but those who will need us tomorrow.  To make that happen, we need your help.

Currently, we get over 25 calls a week from families looking for help in carrying the grief they are suddenly experiencing. We have hired new facilitators to run more groups and continue to expand our workshops. This year we hired a clinical director to enhance our programs and assure their quality. So I am asking:

  • If you have found support in your group, please consider making a donation;
  • If you have joined us at some of our workshops and felt better afterwards, please consider making a donation;
  • If you read our newsletters and feel moved by our columns and healing tips, please consider making a donation;
  • If you know that having others join you on your grief journey has helped you and your family, please consider making a donation.

Join us in keeping COPE strong so we can continue to be here for you all of you today and help those who will need us tomorrow.

Here are just some of the ways that you can help:

Wishing you comfort in the loving memories of those you have lost,

Sandy Wolkoff

Board President, COPE Foundation

President’s Message – December 2021

I am now a resident of Colorado.  The last thing I did before I left New York was go to the cemetery to say goodbye to my son, Steven, at his gravesite on Long Island. It’s 13 years since we lost him. I think I should feel less sad. I think I should cry less when I think of him. I think it should have become easier for my family to talk about him. I think a lot of things that don’t seem to be true.

I knew about grief before my son was killed, but losing him was different. Well, honestly, having him, my first child, changed my life, too. Why would I expect less with his death? But packing up and moving meant I had to look at every photo, every album, every award from elementary school on. I had pictures of him spanning years of sports, of birthday parties, of endless precious moments with his siblings, his parents, his grandparents and his friends. The sheer weight of these now forty-three year old photo albums was overwhelming. I could not bring them with me.

I tried to strip photos out of their albums, some so stuck to the tacky paper that I quickly saw it was a futile task. I soon realized that I didn’t need to keep the dozens of photos capturing the first days and weeks of his life. I didn’t need all the duplicate photos of his first Little League team. The pictures that meant the most were of Steven at his milestones; the birthdays, the family events, graduations and holidays, where a young boy was being held by those who loved him and a young man was living his life. The pictures that captured the shared moments of Steven’s life are the ones that I needed to keep. In those photos, I don’t see static poses. I see loving relationships. I see our family and our history.

And yes, that made me cry more…….but also filled my heart. The shift from grief to gratitude has always amazed me, and it did again last week. I still cry because I will always miss him and mourn all that was taken from him, but I rejoice the love and connections that surrounded him. How lucky I am to have this bounty of love still with me and that goes with me wherever I go.

I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing community of bereaved families and thankful for the love and kindness that our families find and bring here, to COPE and to each other. Each one of us comes with the weight of brutal loss. I hope we all continue to remember that we carry the love with us as well. With this column, my last as board president of COPE, I am glad that I can share my gratitude with all who have kept me company on this journey.

Sandy Wolkoff

President’s Message – November 2021

President’s Message from Sandra R. Wolkoff, PhD., LCSW-R

I am nearing the end of my three years as board president of the COPE Foundation. While my nearly 50 years in social work practice and in leadership positions in nonprofit organizations gave me a lot of experience, this new position at COPE was quite unique. I was the first person to hold this position after our founder, Lilly Julien, decided to step down after 20 years. It was an honor to be asked to take on this position, but I was challenged with very big shoes to fill.

And of course, the pandemic came in and took us all hostage, requiring innovation in thinking and a constant series of mid-course corrections. We needed to adapt to what our families needed and wanted and what safety protocols the pandemic was demanding, even while in the throes of our own fears.

We weren’t alone.  Around us every institution and organization was struggling—how to provide services that were so intimate while assuring everyone’s safety, and how to fundraise so we could survive all the ways that this virus upended our lives. As we near the end of our second year of this new way of living and working, we continue to grow and learn.

Our board of directors continued to meet, adapting to all things Zoom, and supporting COPE in every way possible. We have a strong and generous board: Judy and Richard Berg (co-founders), Bill Cooperman, Ron Jasser, Lilly Julien, Larry Mergentime (our vice-president), Doug Newton, Barbara O’Malley, Sherry Radowitz (our treasurer), Jen Schwartz, and Bill Slovin. Some of our members have been on the board for 20 years, others not even 20 months, but everyone continued to bring their compassion and commitment to every meeting, and all the days in-between. It has been an honor to work with you.

Our staff were amazing. Adam Rabinovitch, our executive director, moved quickly and creatively to find solutions to every challenge thrown our way. Our social work facilitators had to rapidly become experts in technologies most of us had never seen before, finding ways to bring the warmth and  connection that are the heart of our face-to-face meetings into a two dimensional world that relied on chat boxes and emojis. Our financial officer, Marianne Bujacich, and staff, Patty Cocchiarelli,  helped us secure the Federal loans we needed and followed up diligently with local organizations to make sure we stayed in compliance on all the requirements. Our COPE Camp Erin staff, Ann Fuchs and Jamie Greene, had to take a pause for one summer but did everything they could to keep the COPE Camp Erin experience alive. And we were also fortunate to have talented and dedicated volunteers to help us along the way.

This column is my thank you letter to our families, our staff, our leadership, and our supporters. It is an acknowledgement to those whose presence in our hearts keeps us going even during our darkest moments. Lastly, this is a thank you to everyone who has read my columns. I hope they were good enough for you. The next column will be about the future, but for this one, I say once again, thank you.





President’s Message – October 2021

My goal as board president is to assure the sustainability of COPE and support our essential programs and our talented and compassionate staff. I have been on the board for almost 10 years, three of them as board president, and I am deeply committed to assuring that COPE will always be here for families living with the loss of a child. I am a bereaved parent and this past month is the recognition of my oldest child’s birthday and the 13th anniversary of his loss from our lives. My sadness is no different than that of every family member that comes to our support groups and our workshops.
This is the time of the year when all nonprofits are involved in end of the year appeals. I get emails daily advising me about raising money for nonprofit organizations. I diligently read them looking for the magic wand to help me succeed at my job and help COPE. But one email I opened recently sent me to a link for a TED talk. I only got as far as the first five minutes, as the speaker was describing the unique power of nonprofits to influence social change and shared his own experience with a nonprofit helping children with special needs. He paused and said, “Philanthropy is the market for love.”
Nonprofits always start with a passion. That is why our founders started COPE and why we continue to offer care to so many families. And while COPE started because of the pain of unbearable loss, it is all about love. I rolled those words around in my head and in my heart and thought that each one of our donations is a gift of love.
COPE is committed to supporting our participants who attend our dozen virtual support groups, the hundreds of others who attend our workshops, and the professional facilitators who are dedicated to the families we embrace. COPE is here for every day, every week, and every month. Your kind donations allow all this to happen.
Imagine what if everyone receiving this newsletter gave a donation? I think about that a lot. We could have more staff, offer more groups, reach more families, and ease the pain of so many families. And I think, if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. When our end of year appeals and emails come to you, please consider what your support means to the families of COPE. And remember love.
Thank you all!
Sandy Wolkoff
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