Tonight’s Meet a Mom, Sophie Pelletier Martinelli, is a Greenwich Mom of four who has attended as a participant and gone on to become a facilitator at The Den for Grieving Kids at Family Centers. The Den is a grief and bereavement support program for children and families run through Family Centers. The Den holds evening, family programming in Greenwich and supports students in schools throughout the county at no cost to participants.
Sophie shares with us how her personal tragedy led her to become involved with this wonderful organization, why it is so meaningful to her, and how others can get involved as well.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally? Names/ages of kids, etc.?
I was born and raised in a small town in the south of France, and moved to California with my family when I was 12 years old, as my Dad was in the import/export cheese business. After high school, I moved to Paris where I attended college, and worked in public relations in the entertainment industry for a few years, before moving to NYC where I met my late-husband Mike. After a brief year in London, Mike and I moved to Greenwich 24 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child. We had two beautiful children together, Sydney and Nicolas, now 24 and 22. Sadly, Mike started working for Cantor Fitzgerald in August of 2001 and tragically passed away on 9/11.
This was an incredibly devastating time, but I was lucky to be able to stay home and completely devote my time to our children, ages 2 years and 3 months at the time.
A few years later, I met and married Ray, who was born and raised in Greenwich, and we had two more beautiful children, Topher, now 16 and Justin, 14. We are a big united family, and I was very lucky to find a person who accepted my children as his own, and embraced Mike’s extended family, as we have all remained very close.
Where do you live in Greenwich and what do you love about Greenwich and your neighborhood/ what made you decide to move there/ how long have you been there?
I have been in Riverside for over 20 years and absolutely love our community! I love that our children were able to walk or ride their bikes to elementary and middle school, “town” (Old Greenwich) as they got a little older, and even the beach! I was on my own with my oldest two children when I moved here and immediately felt safe and at home here.
Please tell us about The Den for Grieving Kids?
I started going to The Den for Grieving Kids with Sydney and Nicolas after Mike passed away. The Den is a grief and bereavement support program for children and families run through Family Centers. The Den holds evening, family programming in Greenwich and supports students in schools throughout the county at no cost to participants. Grief groups are led by two Den-trained volunteer facilitators. The facilitators were so kind and supportive, and it was so comforting to be around people who had suffered a similar loss, and truly understood my pain.
I also loved that although they were young, my kids could be with other children who had also lost a loved one. Kids experience grief differently than adults, it comes and goes as they grow and mature, but I was grateful for the incredible support we received from The Den those first few years. Once in high school, my daughter Sydney became a volunteer at The Den, and she remembered it as a safe and special place.
How did you get involved with the Den for Grieving Kids?
Last year, as my kids were getting older, I decided to become a grief educator. I finished the course last summer, and reached out to the Den in the fall to see if they needed volunteers. They were in deep need of school facilitators, running groups for kids who had lost a loved one, and I started helping with two schools in Norwalk.
Why do you personally feel volunteering is so important?
We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful and privileged area, and giving back in whichever way we can is so important! Without sounding preachy, I want and hope my children will always be grateful for the lives we have, and want to help support those who have more hardship.
How important are volunteers to this program?
The Den is primarily a volunteer-based organization. Without the help of volunteers, I would have never been able to attend grieving groups with my children at a time when we so desperately needed it.
How can people get involved if they’d like to volunteer?
The Den needs more facilitators. They run grieving groups for adults and their children twice a month at night, and also need help facilitating school groups in the area during the day. The Den provides all training and supplies, and no experience is needed. Please reach out to Tyler Shanafelt, [email protected] if you would like to help!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mom?
I remember when my kids were little, I met a Mom at the gym whose daughter was heading off to college. She reminded me to enjoy the little things as time flies. At the time, my days felt endless and the thought of my daughter being 18 and in college seemed like another lifetime away. Although some days seemed endless when my kids were younger, the years somehow flew by, and here I am today thinking it all happened in a flash!
So enjoy every moment, they are gifts! Write things down, take pictures and videos to capture not just special occasions, but everyday!
What do you like to do to relax/have fun for yourself and as a family?
I love being outside, especially when it is warm! Running has always been a big part of my life, and when the kids were younger, I loved taking them all to Tod’s Point with bikes and baby joggers. My husband is a big boater, and we now spend as much time as we can on the water. Our older kids live in NYC and appreciate our family time on the boat now more than ever!
We love to support local businesses. What are your fave places when you are in Greenwich to:
Grab coffee: Aux Delices, Garden Catering
Workout: Run at the beach!!
Go on a date night: Le Fat Poodle
Go out for a girls night: Anywhere my girlfriends want to go!
Go out to dinner as a family: We belong to Riverside Yacht Club, and that is our go to for Sunday night family dinners!
Get your hair done: I have been with Eliana Maillard for years, who used to work in Greenwich but now opened a new salon in Norwalk.
Get your nails done: Top Nails in Riverside