Mission & History
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, the first center in the United States to provide peer support groups for grieving children, was founded in 1982. A courageous boy named Dougy Turno died of an inoperable brain tumor at the age of 13. In the two months prior to his death, he was a patient at Oregon Health Sciences University, where Beverly Chappell, at the request of Swiss psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of death, dying and bereavement, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, supported Dougy and his family during his treatment. Bev quickly observed Dougy’s ability to bond with other teens facing serious medical issues, how he intuitively knew he was dying, and how he helped other kids talk about their fears. After his death, Bev envisioned a place where children, teens, and their parents coping with the death of a family member, could share their experience with others who understood, who didn’t tell them to “get over it” or judge how they chose to grieve. The first grief support groups met in Bev’s home and has grown from that grassroots effort to become a sought after resource for children and families who are grieving. It is still the only year-round child-centered program offering peer support groups to grieving families in our community.
Today, The Dougy Center serves around 500 children and their 350 adult family members each month. Our 27, 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 27 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 40,000 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.
We provide educational materials about children and grief and training opportunities to local and national agencies in need of our expertise. We are widely known for our groundbreaking grief support group model, and our expertise has spread nationally and internationally. Around the world, The Dougy Center’s pioneering model has been replicated through our trainings and the trainings of programs we’ve trained. We now estimate that there are over 500 organizations worldwide that are using our peer support group model and credit the Center with their founding.
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.