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Don Rodman's legacy of generosity

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On Saturday, Sept. 21, the 28th annual Rodman Ride for Kids begins. This year's ride, however, is bittersweet, as it will be the first without Don.


At the end of August, we lost a long-time member of our family at Catholic Charities. Don Rodman -- auto-dealer extraordinaire, generous philanthropist, and first ever Catholic Charities Board Member Emeritus -- passed away at the age of 88.

Even after reaching his term limit on our Board of Trustees, Don remained heavily involved in the good work that we do here at Catholic Charities. He was especially fond of our programs that serve our youngest clients, and did everything in his power to enrich the lives of children in our community. For years, Don worked tirelessly to raise funds for our Sunset Point Summer Camp, which provides underprivileged children with an otherwise out-of-reach summer camp experience. The main hall at the camp is named in his honor.

Last autumn, Don bought every seat for a performance of Hamilton at the Boston Opera House, and gave those tickets to children across the city, sending 100 at-risk youths from our Teen Center at St. Peter's to see the production. These are just two examples of Don's belief that we should treat all children as if they were our own.

Don, himself a grandfather of nine and great-grandfather of four, was also wholeheartedly supportive of our programs, which provide outreach to grandparents in our community who have become the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Sadly, we know that grandparents raising their grandchildren (grandfamilies) are the fastest growing segment of the population in Massachusetts. Tens of thousands of grandparents across Massachusetts have traded the care-free joys of being a grandparent for the rigor and responsibility of child-rearing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 3 percent of children nationwide live apart from their parents, and of those, nearly two-thirds are being raised by grandparents. Today, nearly 3 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren.

Children come into grandparents' care for a variety of reasons: having incarcerated parents, parents on military deployments, or even parents working multiple jobs that simply need the extra help and support to make ends meet. Far too often, grandchildren in the care of their grandparents are there because parents are experiencing mental health, drug and/ or alcohol problems. The ongoing opioid crisis has also contributed heavily to the rise in need for more children to be cared for by their grandparents.

In their new roles, grandparents often face a wide array of new struggles. Issues like permanency planning, new financial burdens, the guilt resulting from their children's struggles, and managing the educational and emotional needs of their grandchildren while managing with their own health needs.

Recovering Connections, a program of Catholic Charities Laboure Center, was developed specifically to respond to the needs of families impacted by the opioid crisis -- both the grandparents and the grandchildren they are now raising. Support groups, individual counseling and Camp COAUSA -- a summer camp experience exclusively for children who have parents struggling with addiction -- are offered to help address the varied needs of newly created grandfamilies.

Recovering Connections is but one more example of the Catholic Charities child-serving programs that Don Rodman found compelling enough to continue to support.

On Saturday, Sept. 21, the 28th annual Rodman Ride for Kids begins. This year's ride, however, is bittersweet, as it will be the first without Don. Through Don's tireless work and endless creativity The Rodman Ride has raised an astounding $143 million dollars for local charities that support children in need. This year, we have a special opportunity to honor Don's amazing legacy of generosity -- thanks to a bold and generous commitment from an anonymous donor, the next $25,000 contributed to the Catholic Charities Rodman Ride team will be matched! We welcome you to help us meet this matching gift challenge with your own gift by visiting www.ccab.org/donate and be sure to note that your gift is in honor of Don Rodman.

Go to ccab.org to learn more about all of our programs, but especially those that Don held so dear -- those that serve children.

- Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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