MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ -- It’s been almost a year since Imagine Founder and Executive Director Mary Robinson  learned she was among thousands of people who had been nominated for consideration as a CNN Hero. In March, she learned she was chosen as one of the top 20 candidates for the prestigious award. On Oct. 30, “I found out we were one of the top 10,” chosen by CNN executives, she said recently.

Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss, offers free peer grief support services to children from 3 to 18 years of age, and young adults, 18-30. Support groups are also provided for parents, guardians and other adults.  

The CNN Hero of the Year will win a $100,000 donation for their work and a global spotlight on their cause. Robinson said “it is very hard to imagine us winning. I’m just so happy to make the final ten.” 

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Readers can help Imagine win that $100,000, and they can vote 10 times a day, every day, for her at www.cnnheroes.com. The other CNN Heroes will each receive a $10,000 grant.

The winner will be announced at a gala to be held in the Museum of Natural History in New  York City, in the Whale Room, live on CNN, beginning at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 8.  Robinson will be at the gala, with the other Top 10 CNN Heroes. Friends, volunteers, staff and community members will be a watch party at Imagine, 244 Sheffield St., Mountainside from 7:30 to 10 p.m.

The nominees, who come from around the world, learned they had been selected to be in the top 20 earlier this year. Robinson said, “They came out in February and filmed” her at the Imagine facility in Mountainside. To read about and see a video about Robinson and Imagine, visit the website here.

 “We are thrilled but not surprised Mary has been selected,” said Imagine Board Chair John Toriello. “Having served on the board since Imagine’s inception in 2011, I know Mary is an outstanding and dedicated leader who makes and has made an enormous contribution in helping grieving children and families. We are very proud of her.”

Robinson said “I am proud of the staff, donors and volunteers. The supporters are incredible. We could not exist without community support.”  In 2017 support groups met two evenings every other week. Today “there are seven nights of support.” The groups meet on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and one Thursday evening, every other week. The other Thursday evening is devoted to training and workshops. In April, Imagine opened its facility in Newark which is “more than full … There are even Saturday programs in Newark for whole families and community” members,” she said. 

Robinson said, “This award means we are able to shine an even bigger spotlight on our mission of supporting children, teens, young adults, and their families, who are coping with loss due to death or illness … In NJ alone there are currently over 114,000 bereaved youth who have had a parent die. Nationally the number is over 4.9 million.  At Imagine over 430 children and adults from 59 towns across New Jersey attend our support groups every two weeks in Mountainside and Newark. However, serving 430 people at our centers is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of youth needing support. Therefore, our mission also includes a focus on education, to make sure wherever a grieving child or teen turns in their life, there is an adult who pays attention and understands the need to provide support and to listen. Our goal is to create grief-informed communities, school districts, agencies, workplaces, and neighborhoods in New Jersey and nationally."

“Volunteering and working in the field of Children’s Grief Support since 1997, I am so honored to receive this award,” said Robinson. 

About Imagine

Imagine offers free year-round grief support groups for children age 3-18 who have had a parent or brother or sister die, and for families caring for a family member living with a life-altering physical illness. Concurrent groups are available for parents and guardians, and young adults 18-30. Support groups meet on weekday nights for an hour and a half. Dinner is provided prior to the group meeting. To schedule an orientation for yourself or your family or for more information please contact Imagine at 908-264-3100 or info@imaginenj.org.