In a Nutshell: Sona Mehring founded CaringBridge in 1997 after close friends were looking for an easy way to update loved ones on the progress of their prematurely born daughter. Sona knew there had to be a simple, centralized method to get this information out to the people who mattered, so she devised the effective site-building platform. Ever since, CaringBridge has worked as a nonprofit organization that provides an online venue for people to share news about and receive support for medical conditions. Throughout its 20-year history, CaringBridge has helped more than half a million people create sites so family and loved ones can follow them on their health journeys. With multiple resources that encourage emotional and financial support, CaringBridge acts as a beacon of hope for people going through difficult times.
Christine credits her life today to the help of a classroom aide and school nurse who called 911 when she lost control of her speech while teaching her first-grade class. It was a stroke, one that would leave her in a non-responsive state for 10 days and keep her in three different hospitals for two months.
Two years later, she’s faced with a new normal, which means speaking with what she calls a “stroke accent” and finding writing to be a greater challenge than she’d ever imagined it could be. But she’s also still here and on the path to recovery, thanks to the support of her family and friends — and her CaringBridge journal.
CaringBridge is a nonprofit platform that helps people share news about their medical conditions and request both emotional and financial support. It’s also a place where their loved ones can share stories, empowering words, experiences, and memories.
“The comments make me strong,” Christine said of her CaringBridge readers. “It’s like hugs through the internet.”
When she started her CaringBridge journal, it was her way of keeping loved ones informed of her path toward health. It was also a place that helped her get her thoughts, needs, and words in order in times when medical bills had piled high and learning to walk again felt like an insurmountable challenge.
20 Years of Connecting Loved Ones on Their Health Journeys
Two decades ago, CaringBridge’s founder Sona Mehring received some terrible news: close friends had given birth to a premature baby girl, Brighid. Preoccupied with their child in the hospital, they asked Mehring to reach out to their family and friends to keep them updated on their daughter’s condition.
Rather than calling dozens of people over and over again, it suddenly occurred to Sona that she could create a website everyone could visit to stay informed of the baby’s progress. “The same night Brighid was born,” Sona said, “so was the idea that became CaringBridge.”
Too often, bad news feels like something we must face on our own. Or we avoid sharing our experiences simply because we have other priorities when faced with a serious medical condition.
CaringBridge seeks to end that feeling of isolation by building and supporting your community of family and friends, giving them a homebase to gather and send information. Think of it as a holistic way to share your news, relieve stress, and receive ongoing support.
A Platform to Inform & Fundraise During Difficult Times
When faced with a serious medical condition, it’s difficult to decide what to communicate and when. It can often feel complicated at best, impossible at worst. Each CaringBridge site comes with standard features that will guide you through the process, ensuring you’re sharing everything your loved ones need and want to know without making you feel overwhelmed by the process.
CaringBridge sites include several sections. The Your Story page will introduce family and friends to your condition and give background on what’s happened. CaringBridge’s interactive journal allows you to post updates whenever it’s convenient for you.
You can upload pictures, mark milestones, and read comments and notes of support from your loved ones along the way. Anytime you update, family and friends who subscribe to your site will receive an automatic notification of the news.
The Thoughts & Well Wishes section lets your family and friends reach out to you by posting memories, encouraging thoughts, and inspiring photos. Think of it as a billboard of support that will help you find the strength you need to triumph. An image gallery is also available to house photos of your progress throughout your health journey.
Perhaps the most comforting feature of a CaringBridge site, though, is the section designed to help your family and friends help you. For anyone who’s ever faced a loved one’s illness, the desire to do something can feel overwhelming. How do you show your support in a way that’s both sensitive and beneficial?
The Ways to Help section lets you provide all that information in one place — from when you want visitors to a calendar marking personal fundraising efforts. You can also add a GoFundMe campaign to the section so people can provide financial assistance straight from your site.
Multiple Ways of Giving Back Positively Impacts Lives
Without a doubt, CaringBridge has changed the way people deal with illness in positive and remarkable ways. As a nonprofit organization, every bit of support you provide goes to helping more men, women, and children in need.
The platform accepts ongoing donations so it can continue to run sites for its users. CaringBridge also welcomes volunteers. If you’ve successfully used CaringBridge, consider supporting them as an Amplifier to spread the word about your experiences. Amplifiers get involved and give back to CaringBridge by advocating for the site on social media and other online platforms.
There are even opportunities available to directly help people from the comfort of your home by volunteering as a customer care support representative. This role allows people to assist CaringBridge users by answering questions about the site and its functionalities.
Volunteers can organize CaringBridge fundraising events, such as golf tournaments, garage sales, marathons, and more. Generous people also have the ability to leave legacy gifts to benefit the charitable organization. Donors can leave percentages of their estates, and CaringBridge simplifies this by providing templates that can be added to the text of a will.
Uplifting Stories from People Sharing on CaringBridge
As Christine continues along her path to recovery, she regularly posts to the CaringBridge site her daughter set up for her years ago. Updating has become a nightly ritual for her and her husband, Loren.
“It helped us decompress during those darker days following her stroke,” Loren said. And now, he says it’s helping them define their new normal.
Christine’s story isn’t unique. Millions of others have found care, financial support, and emotional uplift by building CaringBridge sites.
From a pediatric brain tumor survivor who underwent chemotherapy at age five to a doctor diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, CaringBridge means something different to everyone. However, all CaringBridge users have one thing in a common — a place where they can share their stories with the people who matter most to them.