Liwanag Ojala: CEO of CaringBridge
Eagan-based CaringBridge is a nonprofit web portal that allows families to build custom websites in support of friends and family members who are struggling with health crises. Each year, more than 35 million people a year visit a CaringBridge site. A new CaringBridge site is created every seven minutes.
Family Caregiving – Among the Most Magnificent Gifts in Life
My mom, Bonnie, has been gone since 2001. She didn’t get to see any of my three boys graduate from high school, or college. I smile to think how she would have been first on the dance floor at the wedding of my oldest son a few years ago.
Breast cancer, followed by liver cancer, swept Mom away long before I was ready to let her go. I wasn’t done memorizing the sound of her voice, or all the funny things she used to say. I wanted more time to ask about her childhood, her career, her marriage. And, oh, she would have loved the new Vikings Stadium, cheering at top volume for the Packers.
#SayItForward: Kindness, Compassion, Hope, Love & Healing with Social Tech
Technology gives us more ways to connect than we could possibly imagine even 20 years ago. And as we control the content that is created and shared, it is squarely on our shoulder’s to use social technology responsibly and with the intention to strengthen relationships and leave a positive impact on the world — not just during times of crisis, but every day. Sona Mehring, founder of CaringBridge, the first and most widely used social network focused on connecting with loved ones during a health journey, demonstrates how everyday messages of love, meaning and kindness can start the ripple effect of #SayItForward.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at Ted.com/Tedx.
Social Media and Medicine
Now more than ever, the human race is intertwined.
According to a recent study by Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites. This is powerful, because in a world where mass shootings occur almost weekly and everything from our morning lattes to our fathers’ strokes are made public via Instagram and Facebook, we are finding less solitude and more solidarity. We have created new communities and, through them, found support. Nowhere is this more meaningful than in the vast world of medicine.
Sharing information can be therapeutic for individuals faced with traumatic experiences, challenging diagnoses, or controversial treatments. Popular health-related websites now considered mainstays, including CaringBridge, grew out of a need to share one patient’s sensitive health information with a close circle of family and friends.
Movers & Shakers: Krista Mathews, Vice President of Major Gifts, CaringBridge
Krista Mathews is seeking to expand significant donations to CaringBridge as the new vice president of major gifts at the Eagan-based nonprofit social network that connects friends and family with people facing health crises.
Building more partnerships with major donors will enable CaringBridge to continue to offer free personal websites to help people communicate about their health, Mathews said.
A Preview of TEDxFargo 2016: Accelerating The Community
Sona Mehring was solving a personal need when she first created CaringBridge. She recognized that people going through a medical event need support more than ever. However, it’s hard to reach out to everybody when you are going through such a tough time. That’s why CaringBridge was created. This website allows people to create their own site while in the hospital or going through a health journey.
During a Health Crisis, CaringBridge Creates Online Community for Each Patient
Sona Mehring was working in internet technology when close friends had a premature baby in 1997. They asked her to keep family and friends updated on their daughter’s condition, so Mehring created a website. That led to the launch of CaringBridge, a nonprofit website (and app) where people can document their “health journeys” instead of making – or fielding – dozens of phone calls.
It feels like yesterday that I was shuttling my three boys in a mini-van bursting with school backpacks and the chlorine-scent of wet towels, with my mom, Bonnie, riding shotgun. Sometimes, the dog, too.
Someone always needed to be somewhere — all at the same time, as I recall. Swim-team practice and Nintendo “play dates” for the guys; and the doctor for Mom.
I was in constant motion, with a state of mind best described as perpetually frazzled.
Five Ways to Be a Caregiver's Cheerleader
In 1998, my mother, Bonnie, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, and in 2001 she was stricken with liver cancer.
As a nurse, my mother was the one providing care for others. She was even a caregiver for her mother, my Grandma Bessie, before she passed away in 1997 at age 94.
But with her own cancer diagnosis, my mom was the one who needed a caregiver. She came to live with my family while she underwent surgery and treatment for both cancer battles.
How CaringBridge Founder Sona Mehring Uses Technology for Good
Sona Mehring has long recognized the power of connecting through technology. Before Google, before Facebook, she developed social network CaringBridge based on that ability — to “connect the hearts behind the keyboards,” as she says. Today, users create a CaringBridge page every seven minutes.
Hope on a Hard Drive: The Story Behind CaringBridge
Next month the website that offers hope on a hard drive to millions of people across the planet turns 19 years old. The site, CaringBridge, began in the Twin Cities by a woman who helped her friends get through a medical crisis.
Face Time: CaringBridge CEO Liwanag Ojala
Ojala spent much of her career in e-commerce leadership roles at big retailers, food distributors and startups before jumping into the nonprofit world.
The (Real) Power 50: Liwanag Ojala
Networking events don’t exactly appeal to Liwanag. While she’s a proven connector who fosters introductions between her contacts, she finds it tricky to develop meaningful relationships at events.
“That’s just the spark to get started,” she says. “The follow-up meeting is my favorite. That’s when you can really listen and get to know someone.”
If I Knew Then: Sona Mehring, Founder and Chief Ambassador of CaringBridge
CaringBridge enables people going through a healthcare emergency to keep friends and family updated through an online health journal.
CaringBridge Websites Mark 2 Billionth Visit
CaringBridge, a website that connects medical patients with family and friends, hit a remarkable milestone this year — its 2 billionth visit.
It took nearly 15 years for the first billion visits to its online pages, where people post health updates about themselves or loved ones and patients’ friends send well-wishes.
CaringBridge Keeps Families and Friends Up To Date During A Medical Crisis
Gilbert pediatrician Tim Jacks, DO, and his wife, Anna, found out in August 2014 that their little girl, Maggie, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
“When you get that diagnosis it pretty much rocks your world,” says Jacks.
The diagnosis took the family down a road no parent wants to travel. Along the way, it could be tiring and difficult to keep friends and family members up to date.
CaringBridge CEO Liwanag Ojala Elected to MPR Board of Trustees
Minnesota Public Radio has elected Liwanag Ojala to its board of trustees. Ojala is the newly appointed CEO of CaringBridge, the first and most widely used global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during a health journey.
What To Do After A Cancer Diagnosis
A cancer diagnosis can turn your world upside down. There's shock, fear and the overwhelming "new normal" of needing to make important health decisions regularly. The possibilities can seem paralyzing, but there's work to do. Here's how to get started.
The (Real) Power 50 of 2016
The members of The (Real) Power 50 are the linchpins in their company. The connectors in their industry. The heart of the operation. The people who make things happen. The remarkable players in the Minnesota business community with a knack for getting things done — and being helpful along the way.
How To Support A Loved One Through Cancer
Nobody wants to get the news that a friend or loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Yet, according to the American Cancer Society, there’s a very high likelihood that you or someone you know will struggle with this disease, and it’s good to be prepared. When cancer does strike, helpers are often torn between helplessness and hypervigilance, both of which can create problems for the ill person. Here are some tips on how to support a loved one through cancer:
Q&A: With CaringBridge, Sona Mehring Built Link Between Patients, Loved Ones
Since its founding in 1997, a half-million patients and their caregivers have created a CaringBridge web site to share details of their medical journey with friends and loved ones. This month, founder Sona Mehring steps aside as CEO of the Eagan nonprofit to be replaced by Liwanag Ojala, who joined CaringBridge as chief operating officer in 2014.
Ojala is an attorney who has held executive-level and e-commerce positions at Pear Tree Greetings, CobornsDelivers and Meijer, a retail chain based in Michigan. Mehring will become CaringBridge’s “ambassador.”
8 Things to Say When a Kid Has Cancer, from a Mom Who Knows
"Your child has cancer."
These are four words no parent ever wants to hear. Yet every day in the United States, 43 children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with cancer.
In April of 2009, my 5-year-old son was one of them.
It's impossible to be prepared for this kind of diagnosis. We survived by taking one day at a time. Luckily we had a huge support network of family, friends and church and community members. Everyone wanted to show their support.
Technology Can Bridge Patients, Supporters
CaringBridge, a website for families going through a serious illness or enduring a severe injury, has been a connector for millions of people across the globe since its creation 18 years ago.
Creating a CaringBridge page is free and can be done with a few computer keystrokes. A family may set it up as a private site or keep it open to the public. People may post messages on a page and the family can place photos on it.
Mehring Steps Aside, New CEO to Lead CaringBridge
After leading CaringBridge for nearly two decades, its founder Sona Mehring, is stepping out of her role as CEO to focus solely on promoting the Eagan nonprofit’s mission.
CaringBridge Names New CEO
CaringBridge, the Eagan-based nonprofit social network that allows people to share the health updates of their loved ones, announced that their founding CEO Sona Mehring and the board have named Liwanag Ojala as their new CEO.
CaringBridge CEO Sona Mehring to Step Down
Sona Mehring is stepping down as CEO at CaringBridge, the tech organization she founded in 1997 to help a friend cope with a premature birth. Mehring will be succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Liwanag Ojala effective Feb. 1.
Finding Strength and Healing Through the Holidays
As founder of CaringBridge, the nation’s most established social networking platform for people immersed in difficult medical journeys, my exposure to the struggles of patients, family caregivers and loved ones seems reason enough to just skip the holidays! Instead, I feel inspired. Across more than 550,000 CaringBridge websites that have received 2 billion visits over 18 years, I am awed by the power of hope and compassion that shine through a health crisis. In moments of celebration – Outside the Incubator!– and in the terrible times, too, I have come to believe in the gift of healing.
Finding Strength and Healing Through the Holidays
Whether the holiday song in your head is the Andy Williams classic, the version by Garth Brooks or the Staples office supply commercial, we are, indeed, approaching “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And while my window on the world could easily be closed – or even boarded up – to “the hap-happiest season of all,” the opposite is true.
As founder of CaringBridge, the nation’s most established social networking platform for people immersed in difficult medical journeys, my exposure to the struggles of patients, family caregivers and loved ones seems reason enough to just skip the holidays. Instead, I feel inspired. Across more than 550,000 CaringBridge websites that have received 2 billion visits over 18 years, I am awed by the power of hope and compassion that shine through a health crisis. In moments of celebration – a clean MRI! –and in the terrible times, too, I have come to believe in the gift of healing.
CaringBridge: For Healing During the Holidays
It can be hard to find the bright spot during the holidays if you are struggling through a family or friend's death or illness. However, there is hope through Caring Bridge, a website that allows families to let others know the status of their loved ones. Since it's start 18 years ago, the website has received over 2 billion visits.
Sona Mehring, Caring Bridge Founder and CEO, joined KARE 11 News @ 4 with how this site really helps with the gift of caring.
According to Mehring, when people are jolted from normal life into roles as patients and family caregivers, sharing their stories – the highs and lows, the hopes and fears – often creates a healing effect.
And while the impact of responses of sympathy and encouragement on outcomes is not clearly defined, the love, hope and compassion that friends and family want to give certainly becomes an empowering force. In moments of celebration – a clean MRI – and in the terrible times when there is no cure or life ends, Mehring has come to believe in the gift of healing.
Celebrate the Season with #GivingTuesday
GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back and is a way of linking people and nonprofits to strengthen communities and encourage giving. As a global nonprofit, CaringBridge is a part of this movement. One of our generous supporters donated a match to kick-off our year-end giving campaign. Thanks to the C.H. Robinson Foundation for matching donations on GivingTuesday up to $15,000.
9-year-old Gavin and his mother Nicole use CaringBridge to update people on his fight against JoeBully – what he’s named his brain tumor. Nicole shares how CaringBridge carried her through her worst moments, like waiting for Gavin to wake up after brain surgery.
Watch CaringBridge founder Sona Mehring with Gavin and Nicole on CBS News This Morning talking about his brain tumor, CaringBridge and giving back. Every dollar invested in CaringBridge brings together 5 people, like Nicole and Gavin, to become stronger together. Please give to CaringBridge today at www.CaringBridge.org/give.
5 Tips to Support the Caregiver in Your Life
Well-meaning friends and relatives may say: “Life doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” But that doesn’t mean you have to handle it alone. Caregiving can be relentless, exhausting, and overwhelming. For family caregivers like myself, there can be a sense of loneliness and isolation, which can affect your overall health and well-being. As a friend of a family caregiver, take the first step of building a short list of close family or friends who are able to help in any way.
Pitching In When Caregivers Need Help
When you’re caring for a sick spouse or parent, it can be difficult to find time to enjoy hobbies, exercise or even schedule routine appointments such as dental checkups. As a result, caregivers sometimes suffer from depression, increased anxiety and deteriorating health.
CaringBridge is another popular site for caregivers. It was launched in 1997 primarily as a tool for people to update friends and family about a loved one’s illness or recovery. In 2012, CaringBridge added SupportPlanner, where caregivers can request assistance with chores.
CaringBridge Bears Out Creator's Belief in Technology as Aid to Hope, Healing
Something as big and faceless as the Internet surely couldn’t hold the intimacy necessary to promote real relationships and create communities. Deanna Thompson, a religion professor in Minnesota, believed that was the case. Thompson thought digital technology stunted face-to-face interaction. Then she was diagnosed in 2008 with late-stage breast cancer. The way a website called CaringBridge kept friends apprised of her situation changed her perspective. “And I’ve had a conversion experience,” Thompson, 48, said last week of her attitude toward the Internet and the digital explosion.
Keeping Communication Lines Open in a Health Crisis
When you're in the midst of a personal or family health crisis, so much happens at once. Between making decisions, absorbing medical twists and turns, and just trying to stay calm, it's hard to keep everyone you care about updated and informed. One way is to connect through online health tools that allow you to communicate with a chosen community. A popular option is CaringBridge, a website for quickly sharing information while sparing you a barrage of texts, emails and phone calls. It offers loved ones an outlet for showing support and encouragement.
CaringBridge Hires Tech Officer
CaringBridge, the nonprofit organization created to help people remain connected to their family and friends when experiencing a health journey, hires Chee Wong as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). As a member of the senior leadership team, Wong will provide vision and strategic direction for all aspects of technology for the CaringBridge organization.
CaringBridge Named Chee Wong as its Chief Technology Officer
CaringBridge, Eagan, named Chee Wong as its chief technology officer. He was most recently a vice president of delivery strategy and enterprise business systems at Thomson Reuters.
Help a Loved One with Breast Cancer
When Tambre Thompson, 47, a flute instructor from Concord, California, learned she had breast cancer last May, her siblings immediately stepped in to help out. But she was also very touched by the level of support she received from her friends. "They took me to my doctor appointments, did my dishes, brought food by," she says. "But mostly, they gave me the feeling that I wasn't going to just completely sink."
5 Ways to Survive Your Child's Hospitalization
Having a child hospitalized surely ranks at the top of the list of any parent’s worst nightmare. However, with assistance from trained professionals and the help of friends and family, the initial fear and stress that come with a hospitalization can transition to coping with a new reality and ultimately help everyone thrive again.
Titans of Technology - Sona Mehring
When Sona Mehring’s friends had a premature baby, she was tasked with updating their community of friends with updates on the baby’s health. Instead of making dozens of phone calls, the main option in 1997, she created a website that became the well-known nonprofit CaringBridge.org.
Senior Care: A Crash Course on What's Important
Dad goes to the ER with a broken hip, you become a caregiver. Here's a go-to guide of the essentials to remember when managing your aging parents.
Communicating During a Health Journey
Stuart and Stephanie talk with Sona Mehring about Caring Bridge, a tool she created to allow people with ongoing health issues to communicate easily with family and friends who care and want to help.
How Social Media is Helping Patients Battle Cancer
If you know someone who is battling cancer, you may be following his or her progress on social media. Websites such as CaringBridge, a free web community that allows patients and their families to set up an account and post updates on their progress...
Tom Brokaw Talks About Overcoming Cancer
Tom Brokaw talks to Dr. Oz about beating multiple myeloma. Plus, he describes the symptoms that provoked him to visit the doctor.
Turning to Social Media in Times of Need
Frank Vardeman was about to undergo knee surgery in January when, as he recalled, his legs suddenly “turned to wet noodles” that could no longer support him. Tests revealed that the culprit was a large growth entangled in his spinal cord, compressing the nerves that control lower parts of his body. Starting about a week after Mr. Vardeman’s first neurosurgery, his wife, Heidi, a pastor at a local church, began posting updates about his medical condition on the social networking site CaringBridge. The response to these posts has helped her avoid the need to keep repeating the same story and “has been an affirmation of how many circles of friends we have and how many people really care,” said Ms. Vardeman.
CaringBridge Founder Sona Mehring to Keynote Dunwoody College Commencement
Dunwoody College of Technology is delighted to announce that Sona Mehring, CEO and founder of CaringBridge, the leading website for rallying support during a health crisis, will be the keynote speaker at our Commencement on Thursday, May 14, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Innovators, Change Agents, Entrepreneurs: 10 Minnesotans to Watch
“We need to continue to really work on the power of healing that comes from this idea of bringing your community together.”
About Mehring: She started the first CaringBridge website in 1997 to help close friends share information about their premature baby. Now, millions use CaringBridge each year to create websites where friends and loved ones can stay informed on health care episodes. Before founding the Eagan-based nonprofit, Mehring ran a consulting firm that developed Web pages.
12 Days of Charitable Giving: CaringBridge
It’s the eleventh day of our 12 Days of Charitable Giving! In December, I’ll be focusing on twelve charitable organizations which my readers have nominated as most deserving of your charitable donation. You have a couple more weeks to squeeze in you charitable deduction for tax purposes in 2014 – so why not consider one of our twelve? Today’s featured charity is CaringBridge.
CaringBridge WonderFull Giving Campaign
When tragedy strikes or an illness hits a family, many people turn to CaringBridge to keep in touch and update loved ones. The Minnesota-based site has literally connected millions of people when they need it the most.
Movers & Shakers: Liwanag Ojala
Ojala has brought her corporate experience to the nonprofit sector as chief operating officer at CaringBridge, the Eagan-based nonprofit that offers free websites where users share news about health conditions. Ojala said her immediate focus was CaringBridge’s holiday fundraising campaign, which the organization hopes will raise $1.2 million by the end of December.
How Do We Design Experiences that Make a Difference
It’s not uncommon to see statements like “making the world a better place, one experience at a time” in a UX practitioner’s bio. These are lofty claims, but when your job centers around creating products and services that make people happier and more productive, it’s easy to see how this kind of thinking creeps in. CaringBridge, winner of the Experience that Makes a Difference category, is a nonprofit organization that offers free, protected websites designed to help connect patients to their loved ones during any kind of health journey.
24 Ways to Help Those Who Are in the Hospital at the Holidays
A friend of mine was recently talking about her experience of being hospitalized because of cancer during the holidays. She shared that while the staff went out of their way to bring the festivities to their patients, she and her family felt a bit forgotten by their friends. So, if you know someone who is a patient this holiday season, here are 24 ways my Facebook friends and I came up with to help hospitalized friends feel loved, including the top five most effective ways to lend a hand to someone who is in the hospital.
Social Media Offers Place for Sharing Support
When 39-year-old Kristin Webb Schell and her husband, Matt, learned in August she had invasive breast cancer, they had to tell their 14-year-old daughter, who already sensed something was up. She wanted a way to tell everybody what was going on without overburdening her Facebook friends. So she started blogging about her treatment on Caring Bridge, a social media site for people going through health crises, and then posted the link on her Facebook page.
Caregiving, Finances & Stress - How to Cope
Finding time for a caregiver to communicate with loved ones during an illness can be difficult. Sona Mehring, Founder and CEO of CaringBridge, joins Bruce and Peg to discuss how CaringBridge can help ease the challenges of caregiving.
Caregiving for a Sick Friend
This Minnesota nonprofit provides a calendar to schedule volunteer services, as well as space for personal journals that can be shared — or not — with others. The site emphasizes the power of connecting people as they move through their "struggles, small victories and gratitude." Nearly all funding for the free site comes from donations by people who use the service. The site is simple to set up and navigate.
7 Tried-And-True Ways to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Sure everyone wants to know how Mom's surgery went and how she is recovering. But you don't have time for a lengthy phone call with each and every interested person. Plus repeating the same story over and over again is exhausting. Use a site like CaringBridge to communicate with everyone all at once. And when you catch your breath you can scan the well wishes and comments on your time.
CaringBridge Founder Comes Home for Talk in Appleton
When the Rev. Mike O’Rourke, a much-admired Catholic priest in Appleton, died unexpectedly in 2010, there was an outpouring of love and respect that came not only locally but from around the world.
A website, CaringBridge, was the conduit for thousands of people who came together to mourn the priest’s death and celebrate his life.
CaringBridge Names Former CobornsDelivers, Meijer Exec COO
CaringBridge named former CobornsDelivers executive Liwanag Ojala its chief operating officer effective immediately, the nonprofit announced Monday. Ojala was most recently vice president of ecommerce at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based supermarket chain Meijer Inc. She previously held executive posts at Twin Cities-based online grocers SimonDelivers and CobornsDelivers.
Creating a Bridge of Caring
CaringBridge was born online in 1997 after my friends JoAnn and Darrin had a premature baby named Brighid. That first website allowed Brighid's family to communicate with loved ones by posting regular journal entries about their health journey. Family members and friends responded with messages of hope and encouragement. The site served as a bridge of caring between Brighid's parents and their concerned loved ones.
CaringBridge and the Healing Power of Words
Launched in 1997, CaringBridge was an early form of social media, created so people dealing with health issues could remain connected to their families and friends. When my daughter was ill the nonprofit organization's platform became our lifeline to the outside world, not only while she was in isolation on the transplant floor at the University of Minnesota, but also during the long recovery at home.
Best Caregiving Apps
CaringBridge is just that -- a bridge that allows you and your loved ones to stay in touch. It's a perfect app for a family that rallies around a loved one in need of care, and for those who are facing surgeries, rehabilitation, and procedures that go along with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
The CaringBridge Ecosystem
CaringBridge is a great example of a “Customer Ecosystem” – a network comprised of individuals and organizations all of whom are focused on one thing: helping a patient get better and a family heal.
Dot.Org Awards Showcase Minnesota Nonprofits at the Forefront of Technology
Every year, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits honor organizations that achieve innovations in technology and presents them with the Dot.Org Award.
When the Internet Isn't Awful: What You Can Learn from the Heartbreaking, Inspiring Messages from CaringBridge
The Internet can often feel like a cesspool of bad intentions, casual cruelty, and hopeless ignorance. Which is why a social networking site like CaringBridge, which allows sick people and their families to give their communities updates on their illnesses, gives us hope for humanity.
CaringBridge Signs Agreement with Hallmark Cards
CaringBridge, the Eagan-based nonprofit social network, is teaming up with Hallmark Cards Inc. to offer cobranded content and services on the popular well-wishers site.
CaringBridge Teams With Hallmark For Website Content
Users of CaringBridge websites will be able to select Hallmark-produced phrases and images to include when signing “guestbooks”; the partnership also includes a greeting card contest.
How CaringBridge Was Born
In 1997—well before the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere—Sona Mehring launched the inaugural CaringBridge website, effectively pioneering one of the earliest online social networks in an era where social media was nonexistent.
Interview with Sona Mehring
Sona Mehring is a businesswoman and the Founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization CaringBridge. She created the first CaringBridge Website in 1997.
CEO Details the History of CaringBridge in New Book
CaringBridge CEO and founder Sona Mehring’s new book features first-person accounts from CaringBridge users in addition to the organization's history.
Social Media Helps Patients Share Their News
Medical updates are no longer hushed discussions held behind closed doors. They're going viral. And they're increasingly being shared with family, friends and, sometimes, digital strangers.
How To Help Families in a Crisis
We've all been there: A friend or family member is dealing with a tough situation, whether it's a critically ill child or the sudden loss of a spouse, and we want to help but don't know how.
Why More Patients Should Blog About Illness And Death
I entered the world of illness blogs for the first time when I learned through Facebook that a friend from middle school passed away last Friday from acute myeloid leukemia. In the three months between his diagnosis and his death, the friend, whom I'll call Tom, blogged beautifully and intimately on CaringBridge, a Web tool designed to help the seriously ill tell their stories and manage communication with friends and family.
Get CaringBridge Stories and Ways to Get Involved