(Simi Valley, CA) April 18, 2023 – Roughly 1.1 million people in the U.S. become widowed each year. In 2005, Michele Neff Hernandez became part of that statistic. As a widowed person at age 35, she quickly learned that the widowed population was underserved and decided to change that narrative. She founded the nonprofit Soaring Spirits International (SSI) in 2008, with the simple goal of connecting widowed people and providing them with resources and tools to rebuild their lives post-loss.
The concept for Soaring Spirits was conceived on a paper dinner napkin and officially launched on May 27, 2008. Since its launch, Soaring Spirits has now served over 4,000,000 widowed people worldwide, with virtual programs and in-person events, such as Camp Widow®. “I never imagined an idea I jotted down on a paper napkin would evolve into a global organization serving and offering hope to millions of widowed people. Soaring Spirits and its community members have created a new face for widowhood,” said Neff Hernandez.
In 2013, Soaring Spirits collaborated with Dr. Carrie West and Schreiner University to conduct a survey of nearly 900 widowed people, which included a large sampling of widowed people in various stages and situations, i.e., younger widowed, widowed with children at home, unmarried widowed and LGBTQ+ households. The survey revealed that widowed people who participated and accessed Soaring Spirits’ programs reported higher levels of resilience, hope, personal growth since the loss of their spouse, and self-esteem compared to widowed people who did not. “This research has proven to be invaluable, allowing Soaring Spirits to use real data to better identify the needs of the widowed community,” said Neff Hernandez.
Since COVID-19 demand for SSI’s services increased by nearly 50 percent. Soaring Spirits programs are inclusive, secular and the team strives to ensure that no widowed person suffers alone. SSI continues to take an innovative approach when developing programs and recently launched its Widowed and Black Community Specific Group to begin to address the underrepresentation of Black people within widowed programs.
Soaring Spirits will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a gala … “Hope Takes Flight” on May 6, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA. The gala will honor Tembi Locke, New York Times best-selling author of From Scratch and producer of the Netflix limited series From Scratch (based on the book). “Hope Takes Flight” is a fitting theme for our gala because we have given widowed people hope and a reason to soar,” commented Neff Hernandez. Eden Espinosa, recognized for her critically acclaimed portrayal of Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway will be the featured live entertainment at the gala. For more information about the “Hope Takes Flight” gala, visit the website at www.soaringspiritsgala.org.
Soaring Spirits founder, Michele Neff Hernandez is passionate about helping others cope with loss. She is the author of Different After You – Rediscovering Yourself and Healing after Grief and Trauma, was honored as a 2021 Top Ten CNN Hero, was featured in the GUTSY Apple TV limited series with Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton and will be the focus of an upcoming PBS streaming documentary featuring Soaring Spirits’ Camp Widow program.
See links below for more information about Soaring Spirits:
Weekend long event: www.campwidow.org
About Michele: https://micheleneffhernandez.com/media/
Testimonial from community member: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cuu-wHvAZI
About Soaring Spirits International:
Soaring Spirits International was established in May of 2008 to provide a unique peer-based support community for grieving people. This segment of the bereaved community has been underserved and often overlooked. SSI aims to change that by leveraging a social-media-based infrastructure with key programs designed to inspire, inform, comfort, and provide practical help for the bereaved. For more information about SSI visit the website at www.soaringspirits.org. SSI is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit corporation based in Simi Valley, California. Follow us on Twitter at @soaringspirits and Facebook at Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.
TBM Associates PR