Regional LUMINARIA event benefits girls and young women who have lost their mothers; Hingham volunteer part of effort

Courtesy Photos

April 18, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer

A LUMINARIA display will be the highlight of a fundraising event at Scituate Lighthouse on Friday, May 6, to benefit empowerHER, an organization that offers events and mentoring for young girls who have lost their mothers.

The event is taking place two days before Mother's Day, with a rain date of Saturday, May 7.

"This is a way to let them know that they are not alone, nor are they defined by their grief," Kelly Jo Sunday told the Hingham Anchor. Both she and fellow Cohasset resident Megan Hayes are members of the planning committee and also mentors. This is the third year the event has taken place at the lighthouse.

LUMINARIA bag in memory of Kelly Jo Sunday’s mother

Sunday is co-chair for the Boston LUMINARIA this year and is also mentoring a nine-year-old girl.

"This is a regional event involving Cohasset, Hingham, and other volunteers, supporters, and participants," Sunday said. "EmpowerHER has a very specific mission -- to empower, support, and connect girls and young women up through the age of 24 who have experienced the loss of their mothers, providing a supportive and inclusive community."

Hingham volunteer Jillian Dahan said she was drawn to empowerHER and their mission when she learned about the organization a few years ago from an article she noticed while flipping through a local magazine.

"My own Mom lost her mother at a very young age and did not have a support system growing up. EmpowerHER is what she needed as a young girl -- to have someone to look up to who has gone through this loss to let [others who have lost their mothers] know that it's survivable," Dahan explained. This is exactly what empowerHER aims to do."

She knew she wanted to get involved in some way, and being a part of the LUMINARIA planning committee has given her that opportunity. "It feels good knowing that I am helping girls like Mom," Dahan said.

No matter what someone is going through in life, "it's comforting to know that you can relate to someone else, that you are not alone," Dahan said. "EmpowerHER is creating connection and eliminating isolation, which when you think about it, can be such a powerful movement. That connection has the ability to heal, and empowerHER is helping to do just that."

Mother’s Day -- which occurs two days after the event -- can be a challenging time for girls who have lost their mothers, so the beautiful hand-lettered display of LUMINARIA on the Scituate Jetty "allows us to honor loved ones and to remind girls who have lost their mothers that they are not alone in their grief," Dahan said. I can’t think of a more fitting way to reflect and remember. [This effort has] grown since the first LUMINARIA event and is sure to be a beautiful and emotional night."

The Boston LUMINARIA location has been in Scituate for the past two years. "We love the beauty of the lighthouse as a backdrop, and Cara Belvin founded empowerHER from her home in Scituate in 2013" to help meet a recognized need in the community, Sunday said. Cara was 9-years-old when her mother, Kit, died of breast cancer.

EmpowerHER -- a homegrown organization that has had a focus on the South Shore for many years -- also hosts 10 LUMINARIA in cities across the country and one in London.

All proceeds from the sale of LUMINARIA bags and donations will fund year-round events and mentorship.

The goal is to sell 1,000 bags at $25 each, beyond the 800 that were sold last year. Additional donations and sponsorships are welcome.

"The whimsical display of personalized bags 'in honor of' or 'in memory of' a loved one and written beautifully by hand by Scituate calligrapher Andrea Anthony raises critical funds for, and awareness of, empowerHER," Sunday explained.

Dahan, a lifelong Hingham resident, said she's humbled by the generosity and support of this event among Hingham residents and businesses. "When I reached out about silent auction item donations or purchasing a luminary, most gave without hesitation," she said. "That says a lot about the town in which we live. When there is a need, the Hingham community rallies together to make a difference, and I think that’s really special — it’s inspiring to see."

Friends and family members who are Hingham residents have also participated in this fundraising effort, helping to spread the word.

EmpowerHER's vision is of a world where every girl or young woman who experiences the loss of her mother is part of a supportive community -- including positive role models and peer support within an inclusive network of girls supporting girls and women supporting women.

"It has been such a rewarding experience to work with this group of people, knowing that we are making a difference in these young girls’ lives," Dahan said.  "I am fortunate to be a small part of it, and I can’t wait to see what empowerHER has in store for the future."

Promoting positive growth through grief and reminding these girls and young women that they are not alone is an important part of this non-therapeutic, community-based, volunteer-driven program.

"The LUMINARIA has become a mainstay fundraiser for empowerHER -- it was born in 2020 during the pandemic when a planned gala had to be cancelled. We were planning to light the path to the gala with luminaries -- a quick pivot to the Scituate lighthouse and LUMINARIA was born!" Sunday explained.

The display is best experienced at dusk or in the evening. The luminaries will be set up around 4 to 6 p.m., with most viewers expected between 6 and 8 p.m. "The sun is expected to set at about 7:48 p.m. on Friday, May 6," according to Sunday.

The LUMINARIA planning committee will partner with their local recycling centers and local authorities to recycle or reuse LUMINARIA items and to minimize the impact on the environment," Sunday said.

She first became involved with empowerHER several years ago after hearing about the organization, hosting fundraisers and volunteering in the office and on the gala committee.

This program is one of the only nonprofit organizations dedicated to serving girls who have lost their mothers through events and mentorship and provides an integrated series of programming featuring year-round events for girls.

These include a signature Mother’s Day retreat, Beach Bash, cooking classes, yoga, and more. All programs and activities are provided at no charge to families and are available both in-person and virtually. For more information, videos, and stories, visit For more information about the event, to purchase a LUMINARIA bag, or to make a donation, visit For sponsorship details, visit

Each person who purchases a luminary will also receive an exclusive link to photos from the display and an aerial video -- "all donated time and artistry" from local photographers Lara Kimmerer and Lauren Cole.

"Acoustic music by Birch Swart will lend to the reflective mood of this beautiful event," Sunday said. "The lighthouse is a public space accessible to all. There is a limited amount of parking at the lighthouse, but it is a pleasant walk from various points in Scituate."

No reservations are required. Everyone is welcome.

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