Stories

Sona Says, ‘Every Gift Comes From the Heart’

Sona , Jake and gifts from the heart

Sona works on CaringBridge correspondence in 2004, assisted by her youngest son, Jake, who was 10 at the time. In the early days, the dining room of the Mehring Family home in Eagan, Minn., was called “Suite 200.” And yes, that’s a basket of unfolded laundry in the right corner of the photo!

You recognized the gifts from the heart of CaringBridge before I did.

On June 7, 1997, I launched one website to support two friends, JoAnn and Darrin, whose baby arrived way too soon. Everyone rallied around the young family, and the waves of love that came across the internet lifted us up during a terrible time.

At the Minnesota hospital where Baby Brighid was born, and among family and friends, word spread about this new way to keep connected during a health crisis. I found myself coding what would be known as CaringBridge, after I had tucked my three young boys into bed at night and started my nightly load of laundry.

‘It Needs to be There for Everyone’

The first donation to CaringBridge, before it was even a nonprofit, came from a grandmother in California. She mailed a check to my home with a note that said, “I would never have known my granddaughter without this service. It needs to be there for everyone.”

And thanks to you, CaringBridge is still here for everyone. Safe, free, and secure. And as a nonprofit, still advertising-free.

My Dining Room Was ‘Suite 200’

Over 20 years, people have supported CaringBridge in so many ways …

The original, all-volunteer CaringBridge team, a number of whom remain dear employees, worked for years out of two rooms in my Eagan, Minn., home. We called it “Suite 100” and “Suite 200.”

It was a shared workspace, long before that become trendy. My dining room table became a post office. My sons, who were 8, 6 and 3 when CaringBridge started, became expert envelope-stuffers.

We still joke about when Nick, the oldest, said to me, “Mom, isn’t it time for you to get a real job?”

Technology Keeps People Connected

As a software engineer by trade, keeping pace with technology is in my DNA. And thanks to you, CaringBridge is just as accessible on a mobile device as it is on a desktop or laptop.

Just the other day, I was thinking back on an early gift from the estate of woman who had not used CaringBridge personally, but believed that technology would be essential in keeping people connected.

Oh, she was so right!

Every Gift Comes From the Heart

But most of all, your generosity amazes me. A penny drive by elementary students. A card with $2 from a senior on a fixed income.

Donors who have been mailing in gifts, like clockwork, for 10 and 20 years, even before we became a nonprofit in 2002.

A royal family that used CaringBridge during a health journey. Every gift comes from the heart.

Powerful Impacts of Giving

Over the years, among my greatest joys and sources of inspiration has been reaching out to thank so many of you for supporting CaringBridge. (By the way, the main phone at the CaringBridge office, which is still in Eagan, Minn., but no longer in my home, is our family’s original land-line number. Soon, no one will remember land-lines!)

When I make these calls, I get to hear, first-hand, the power that comes from giving. There is nothing like it.

Jump, and the Net Will Appear

Sona, right, with CEO Liwanag Ojala, left, and JoAnn Hardegger, the mom of Baby Brighid, for whom CaringBridge is named.

Going back to the days when we entered donations into a simple spreadsheet in “Suite 200,” also known as my living room, people have been supporting CaringBridge without even being asked. It reminds me of someone telling me years ago, “Jump, and the net will appear.”

And while I am officially retiring on June 30, this is not goodbye. Following your lead, and your generous spirit, I will always love and support CaringBridge.

With overwhelming gratitude for your belief in CaringBridge, I ask you to support — over the next 20 years! — our CEO, Liwanag Ojala. She is smart, and big-hearted, and mom to two of the cutest kids ever.

We are colleagues. And friends.

Over two years of transition-planning with our Board of Directors and leadership team, Liwanag and I have joked that I raised CaringBridge from infancy to college.

Now she takes the baton.

CaringBridge is in good hands.

Will You Support CaringBridge Today?

If you value CaringBridge, too, would you consider making a donation to keep the nonprofit service free, and advertising-free, for everyone one who needs it?

Donate to CaringBridge

Sona Mehring is founder of CaringBridge.

Comments (12)

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Liz Morris Jul 18, 2019 9:32am
Thank you! Caring friends is a Godsend to friends and family as a loved one is facing health issues. Have been using this for years and will continue to do so. ❤️
Bev Smith Jul 16, 2019 7:28am
CaringBridge has carried me through several health crises with both friends and family. I am currently using it for two people who are dear to me. Thank you for your vision 20 years ago. God bless you and I will pray for Liwanag.
Mary Ann Petro Jul 10, 2019 1:13pm
Caringbridge has really been a great support to me as I journey through Lupus and cancer. It has helped me to keep in contact with family and friends across the country.
Millie Leone Jul 10, 2019 7:20am
Thank u for Caring Bridge! It has helped me keep up with a precious Christian Sister; May God continue to bless 🙏 🙏 this group!
Gail Lambers Jul 02, 2019 8:45am
This is a gift you have given people to unite in care and love. This is so effective. If you have someone in your family dying, this is your link together. This was true when my husband died. I hope this is helpful to someone: I wish I had started Caring Bridge earlier and prepared the lists of people with emails prior to his death since I felt I missed many. However I am still In amazement at the human grapevine...the word of mouth. I had a dear friend do the entry of names and emails. Writing my own messages was helpful to me personally and brought so many to the celebration of his life. Blessed by Caring Bridge. Thank you so much.
Sherri Koehntopp Jun 08, 2019 12:07pm
I was fortunate enough to be the receiver of how wonderful caring bridge is. It was a way for me to stay connected to family and friends, when I did not have the energy to to even talk on the phone. Sherri
Maureen McLaughlin Hutchcroft Jun 08, 2019 10:49am
Caring Bridge got my late husband, Tom and I through our journey through Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I posted daily for a year. Every night before he would go to sleep I would read the post from the day before and then read the comments that our friends and family had made. Every night he would cry as I read them to him. He was so touched by how much people cared about him and by all the prayers they would send him through their comments. The night that I didn't post, our Caring Bridge followers knew that Tom had died. I have posted since then just to let people know how I am doing, and also to ask them not to forget Tom. After Tom passed, my daughter gave me $100 to print off the pdf file of that journey and all of the wonderful comments that people gifted us. It fills a 6 inch binder. Occasionally, I pick a page and read it. This has helped me so much with my grief. Thank you for making this possible. So many memories would have been lost had you not made this available.
josh samuel magno Sep 22, 2017 9:04pm
i am using caring bridge like you
Binder Sep 10, 2017 12:51pm
Great Work i Appreciate it.
Karen Kelkeher Jun 28, 2017 8:58pm
My neice Teresa Swider who had breast cancer and has now been diagnosed again is part of Caring Bridge. She has a very positive attitude and outlook on life. She seems to take everything in stride and what happens her and.her family will deal with whatever life has to throw at them. Keep your chin up Teresa. Hopefully you will see this. Love you aunt Karen
Dianna H Ross Jun 16, 2017 9:20am
Well I pray and hope that God will give you strength and courage to face each day with the endless days of treatment . Since I have been communicating with you I went on my first trip to Gulf Shores here in Alabama. Last day of my vacation I fell and busted my knee cap at the age of. almost 62 in my hotel room. Had surgery onTuesday a week later and Today will be my first day of therapy a week after the accident. I don't like pain! I have been through two natural childbirths and in the AF and Army for twelve years , 3 mos and 9 days. Broken ring finger and little toe before this . Wish me luck today! I keep you in my prayers daily dear sister in Christ!
Deep Singh Jun 13, 2017 12:07am
very good