Give a Gift That Does Good

The children’s book sponsored by St. Mary’s Home — “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale” — is featured prominently in a “Nonprofit Gift Guide” published this week in Inside Business. The guide lists items that local nonprofits are selling for the holidays.

The printed guide includes a huge photo of the book’s cover. You can check out an online version of the guide, without photos, here.

Please pass along to friends, families and supporters who may be looking for ideas for gifts that do some good.

The book is $10, with author Lisa Suhay donating part of the proceeds to St. Mary’s Home and to The Joy Fund, which helps needy families at the holidays. To order the book, contact Suhay at or 757.575.4424. Thank you.

The Mermaid is Coming to St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s mermaid is almost here. In fact, she will arrive on Monday.

But … she needs a name.

Come up with the perfect moniker for this lovely creature of the sea and you’ll win a copy of “There Goes a Mermaid!” by Norfolk author Lisa Suhay and a St. Mary’s tote bag filled with goodies.

Fill out a ballot at St. Mary’s front desk, or send an email with your name, address, phone number and suggested name for the mermaid to Deadline is end of the day, Sunday, Nov. 8. The winning name will be announced during the Family Forum at St. Mary’s Home on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Employees, families, friends, supporters — everyone is invited to name the mermaid.

To learn more about the mermaid, click here.

Making Mermaid Magic

Jahmari and Amelia took a field trip today to help make a mermaid. With paintbrushes and rollers — and a little help from Amelia’s mother and staff from St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children — they dabbed blue paint on the tail of one of Norfolk’s newest mermaid statues, which is going to be displayed at the Home.
“The kids are going to put their magic into it,” said artist Georgia Mason, who is creating the mermaid. She invited St. Mary’s children to come out to her home studio so they could see the mermaid in progress and lend a hand.
What does a mermaid have to do with St. Mary’s Home?
Norfolk is dotted with mermaid statues shaped like the city’s mermaid symbol, which is 10 years old. The city is now celebrating the Year of the Mermaid, which kicked off with a party at St. Mary’s earlier this month, including the reading of a mayoral proclamation honoring the Home. The event also celebrated the release of a new, special anniversary edition of Lisa Suhay‘s children’s book about Norfolk’s mermaids, “There Goes a Mermaid!” Suhay is donating part of the proceeds to the Home and to The Virginian-Pilot’s Joy Fund.

But the children of St. Mary’s didn’t have a mermaid to call their own. Carl Albero, a member of St. Mary’s Board, bid $5,000 at a fundraiser auction earlier this year to get them a mermaid, and one of his granddaughters also helped paint the mermaid today. Mason is using just part of the mermaid money to pay for materials; the rest will go to support the nonprofit Home because Mason is donating her time and talent to the project.

Stay tuned for updates on the mermaid.
WAVY-TV 10 ran a story about the mermaid field trip on its 5:30 p.m. newscast today. If you didn’t happen to catch it, below you can watch our own video of Amelia, Jahmari and helpers working on the mermaid:

Celebrating the Mermaid Book and the Year of the Mermaid

Five years ago, Lisa Suhay told the story of Norfolk’s mermaid statues in her children’s book, “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale.” But the story didn’t end there, as Norfolk’s mermaid population has continued to grow right up until this officially proclaimed “Year of the Mermaid” — which began Sunday with an event at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children.
About 60 residents, family members, staff and friends of the Home gathered in the Atrium to celebrate the release of a special revised edition of Suhay’s book, which includes some of the “new girls in town” and a page all about SMHDC. The special printing honors the fifth anniversary of the original book, the 10th anniversary of the mermaid as Norfolk’s symbol and the upcoming 65th anniversary of St. Mary’s Home.
Suhay read — actually, gave a wonderful performance of — her book and signed copies of it. She is donating part of the book’s proceeds to SMHDC and The Virginian-Pilot’s Joy Fund. “Lisa has been a real friend to St. Mary’s,” CEO William C. Giermak said of Suhay, who also spoke at the Home’s graduation ceremony in May.
Bob Batcher, public relations manager for the City of Norfolk, read a proclamation issued by Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim. The proclamation honors St. Mary’s Home and declares July 2009-2010 to be the “Year of the Mermaid” in Norfolk.
St. Mary’s Home, which cares for children with severe disabilities from Norfolk as well as from throughout Virginia, exemplifies the city’s slogan of “Life. Celebrated Daily,” Batcher said. “Every day there is something here to celebrate,” he said.
Special guest former Miss Norfolk Amanda Batcher, Batcher’s daughter, sang “God Bless America” to open the program and closed out the event with a touching rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Also on hand for the event were Debbie Bellucci from The Joy Fund and “Mermaid Mama” Georgia Mason, who has created many of Norfolk’s mermaids and now is working on one for the children of St. Mary’s Home.

Come to the Heart of Ghent Festival

If you’re in Norfolk this weekend, come out to the Heart of Ghent Festival on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The event features a sidewalk sale by local businesses and local nonprofit agencies providing fun and information.
Staff from St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children will be at Blair Middle School. Kids, stop by our table to make sun catchers.
Making a special appearance will be children’s author Lisa Suhay. She will sign copies of the new, special edition of her book “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale.” St. Mary’s Home and The Virginian-Pilot’s Joy Fund each will receive $1 per book sold.
Watch this video to learn more about the book project.

One of the Happiest, Yet Saddest, Days of the Year

Smiling and wearing blue caps and gowns, 12 residents filed into St. Mary’s Atrium this morning to the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.” Mikey even pumped his fist. 

Graduation Day is one of the happiest days of the year at the Home, a rite of passage that signals completion of the graduates’ formal education. Yet it’s also one of the saddest days; the graduates are 21, or will reach that age soon, and so they will be leaving the Home. They may move, for example, to an adult group home.
“The people here are so caring and so loving,” Devon’s mother, Tia, said as she delivered the parent tribute during the ceremony. “I thank you. I really wish he could stay, but I know he has to move on to make room for the next special child.” 
Lisa Suhay, an English teacher and author of eight children’s books, gave the keynote address. Suhay has come to know St. Mary’s Home well as she has worked on a new edition of her book “There Goes a Mermaid! A NorFolktale,” proceeds of which will in part benefit the children and young adults who live here. The Home, she said, “is a place of deliberate acts of kindness, where minds and spirits grow together.”
Each resident who comes to live at St. Mary’s Home ends up finding a special friend among the staff of the Home and the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs’ REACH Program teaching team. (REACH stands for “raising expectations and abilities for children with complex health needs.”)  The caregivers who knew today’s graduates the best shared a bit about them — their infectious laughs, their million-dollar smiles, their playfulness, their determination and their independent spirits. 
Congratulations, Anthony, Crystle, Devon, Ericka, Jamie, Jo Jo, Michelle, Mikey, Patrick, Renee, Vickie and Wayne. You are loved, and you will be missed.