By Joseph Sapia
MONMOUTH BEACH – A giveback to the community by an area couple has evolved into a Monmouth County therapeutic support group for children that have had a traumatic experience.
The county chapter of Rainbows for All Children deals with such issues as divorce, separation, death, military deployment, unfit parents and so on.
“It’s loss or any family crisis that changes the family,” said Michael Meriton, who with his wife, Marie, started this Monmouth Beach-based chapter.
The Meritons – Marie, 54, and Michael, 55, who live in Little Silver – wanted to help their community. They got involved with Rainbows in 2007 at their former home in Westfield after dealing with their own family situation – Marie’s mother, who has since died, being struck with dementia and Parkinson’s Disease.
The Meritons moved to Little Silver in 2009, but remained active in the Westfield Rainbows until 2012.
Maria, a 5th grade language arts teacher in Rahway, has witnessed how children deal with death and marital problems in their families. Michael is head of commercial services for the Enterprise Data Management Council, based in New York City.
“Both of us wanted to find a way to give back,” said Marie, who, with her husband, has two adult daughters.
While the national Rainbows for All Children organization deals with children ages 3 to 17, the county chapter is now set up to deal only with ages 5 to 14, along with their adult guardians. Sessions further break down by ages 5 and 6, 7 and 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14 and the adults.
“By seeing other children, they’re not alone,” Michael said.
Sessions have topics such as Anger, Grief, and Self-Esteem. Sessions are confidential – what is said in a session stays there.
The group meets on select Mondays at the Church of the Precious Blood in Monmouth Beach. Sessions are open to all and free.
The sessions are run by volunteers from the church.
“They’re not counselors, they’re “loving listeners,’” Marie said.
The Church of the Precious Blood, where the Meritons are parishioners, provides annual funding of about $3,000. The money goes to such things as training facilitators through the national Rainbows and providing workbook materials to participating children and adults.
The chapter began in September with about 20 children and has increased to its current 25, representing about 12 families.
“These are parents with children going through a really hard time,” Michael said.
The Meritons are reaching out to the county to see if more people are interested. The chapter can expand to 60 children, Michael said.
While adults with their children can just show up for a session, the group prefers pre-registration.
The group can be reached by calling Michael Meriton, 908-720-7044; email MonmouthRainbows@gmail.com; through its website, www.monmouthrainbows.org; or at the “Monmouth Rainbows” Facebook page. National Rainbows, based in Illinois, is at www.rainbows.org, phone 847-952-1770.
Upcoming sessions at the Precious Blood Parish Center, 72 Riverdale Ave., are from 6:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Feb. 22, Feb. 29, March 7, March 14, March 21 and April 4.
Since starting 30 years ago, national Rainbows has served 3 million children, according to the Meritons.
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