The mission of The Dougy Center is to provide support in a safe place where children, teens, young adults and their families grieving a death can share their experiences. Through our Pathways Program we provide a safe place for families facing an advanced serious illness.
The Dougy Center was founded in 1982 by Beverly Chappell in tribute to Dougy Turno, a young boy who died of an inoperable brain tumor at age 13. Before meeting Dougy, Bev was a registered nurse who had worked in the area of death and dying since 1974. Through her work, she found most people were uncomfortable when faced with death and grief and that doctors, clergy, hospital staff, and school personnel often did not have the training to support children in their grief. This reality inspired Bev to attend the first of many seminars and lectures by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, pioneer and author in the field of death and dying.
In August 1981, Dougy wrote a poignant letter to Dr. Kubler-Ross, asking why no one would speak to him of dying, even when he was facing his own death. Dr. Kubler-Ross corresponded with Dougy, and encouraged Beverly Chappell to meet him and his family when they visited Oregon Health & Science University for experimental treatment. Bev clearly saw in Dougy a thirst for life and deep compassion for others, which many never attain, even in their older years. After Dougy’s death later that year, his wisdom and inspiration stayed with Bev and led her to start support groups for grieving children. Those first families in need of grief support met in Bev’s basement family room in her Southeast Portland home. Soon a board of directors was recruited, volunteer facilitators were trained, and The Dougy Center entered a phenomenal period of growth.
Today, The Dougy Center serves 550 children and their 425 adult family members each month. Our 70, open-ended peer support groups meet every other week and are divided by age, type of death (illness, sudden death, murder, suicide) and who died (parent, sibling). The concurrent adult support groups meet at the same time for the caregiver of the child or teen who is attending group. Since our founding, The Dougy Center has served over 45,000 children, teens and their families and has received national and international acclaim for our pioneering peer support model for helping children cope with the death of a family member. Through our National Training Program and training materials, thousands have learned how to help grieving children and more than 500 programs modeled after The Dougy Center have been established worldwide.
The Dougy Center relies on the generosity of individuals, businesses and foundations. We receive no government funding and are supported entirely by private donations and professional training fees. We never charge families for our services.
Cover image courtesy Pete Eckert; text courtesy The Dougy Center.