A Mother on an International Mission
Well-known figures like Chrissy Teigan and Meghan Markle are known for making headlines, but in 2020 they shared their miscarriage stories. This brought mainstream attention to an issue a Georgetown alumna has been creating awareness around for years. Sarah Slack (EML’20) and her nonprofit, the TEARS Foundation, has been providing financial and emotional support for pregnancy, infant, child loss, and youth suicide for the last 18 years.
“I started my organization, The TEARS Foundation, because 20 years ago my son was stillborn,” Slack said. “I couldn’t pay for my son’s gravemarker for a year and it was enough that I had to walk this journey, had to go to the cemetery, visit my child, and there was no gravemarker. There was a number where he was laid to rest. And I just thought nobody should go through this. You’re going to have to walk through the pain, but at least we’re able to lift the financial burden and help with the funeral expense. So I started to figure out how to raise money so we could do this.”
Slack began in her local community in Seattle, Washington. From there, it started to grow and at the 12 year mark, Slack sat down to write down a five-year plan, which included taking her organization to Washington, D.C., to be among influencers who could help further her mission internationally.
At the same time, she was considering graduate school, having already been accepted to the University of Washington in nonprofit management. So, she started searching for opportunities in D.C. and came across the Executive Master’s in Leadership program. Seeing the broad focus on leadership development regardless of industry or function and the international component, she felt she found the perfect program for her.
“I knew Georgetown was for me because their values coincide with mine,” Slack said. “The way that they believe in serving and the good of others, that’s how I live my life. I’m so grateful to have attended Georgetown and to be a part of that community and it continues on. It’s sad when you think you graduate and you’re moving on but I’ve realized I’m a part of the community forever now, and I’m super grateful for that.”
Slack figured out the logistics of traveling back and forth between Washington and Seattle, then started her EML degree in 2019. The connections, community, and mentoring Slack received while at Georgetown McDonough was unlike anything she could have imagined. She says the people she met in her cohort and the support they have given her has proven to be invaluable. Currently, one of her EML classmates sits on the TEARS Foundation Board of Directors. Her professors continue to mentor her and look for ways for Slack to grow the TEARS Foundation.
“One of my professors at Georgetown, who is a mentor to me now through EML, sent me an article and asked ‘Did you see that Megan Markle had recently spoken out about this?’ And he suggested that I reach out to her,” Slack said.
The Washington Post actually has reached out to Slack and her foundation before because TEARS is the leading foundation for child-loss world-wide. At the moment, there are 32 chapters internationally and it continues to grow.
“It blows my mind sometimes to think about, in the most humble way, how we’ve been able to help people in a significant way,” Slack said. “Georgetown is a huge piece of the puzzle for me to be able to continue this work and move it forward. I also think when I tell people that I graduated from Georgetown in leadership, it somehow gives me credibility.”
Over the last 18 years, the TEARS Foundation and its founder have been recognized for their achievements. A few of the awards include the Pay it Forward Award and the Award for Innovation in Excellence. Most recently, Devin McCourty, of the New England Patriots, selected The TEARS Foundation as his charity for My Cause My Cleats during the week of December 7, 2020. He wore cleats specially made to honor his daughter, Mia, who was stillborn and to bring awareness to the TEARS Foundation.
“I can imagine that there are many people who have experienced this and may have never been supported or felt the opportunity to be able to speak about their loss because not everyone has that type of support,” Slack said. “I want even the Georgetown alumni network to know that they are not alone. If they want to personally reach out to me, I would be honored to hear from them. I just want them to know that there are people that have walked this road before. It can feel really lonely, and I would want them to know that they’re not alone.”
If you are experiencing something like this and are in need of resources please visit the following link.
Sarah has also graciously offered to speak with anyone who needs it; her email can be found below as well.