One Bright Star was founded in 1998 by four mothers who each experienced the tragedy of a passing child, Linda Janavaras, Jan Backlund, Vicki Meyer and Barbara Rischmiller. Jan lost her daughter, Khia, after a long battle with Leukemia on November 3rd, 1990. Khia was 10 years old. Barb lost her son, Brandon, after a pole vaulting accident of February 4th, 1991. He was 18 years old. Linda lost her son, John, after being suddenly stricken with Meningitis, February 3rd, 1995. He was 15 years old. Vicki lost her son, Brandon, in a fatal car crash May 19th, 1995. He was 17 years old.
These women were meant to be together, in that they had many similarities. None of them knew each other prior to their tragedies. Barb and Vicki each lost a “Brandon” and had one remaining child, a daughter and they were both named Kimberly. They all lost their “baby” (the youngest child), they all had two children; one boy, one girl. Jan and Barb lost their children three months apart – Linda and Vicki lost their sons three months apart.
They first came together and met in October of 1996 as a source of support for one another. As time went on and they all got to know one another better, they discussed the possibility of creating a pin that they could wear that would signal to people at a glance that they are grieving parents. For the next two and a half years they met every three to four weeks to plan this organization. They designed the star pin and had a freelance artist make them each one. From there they went to a jeweler who had made a mold and is now producing orders.
Nothing in life prepares a person for the death of their child – NOTHING! We can’t take away the pain of the loss, but we can offer some help.
The mission of the One Bright Star organization is to be a resource for grieving families who have lost a child to death and has created a star symbol to recognize and support families.
As parents who had lost a child, the central interests of the founders as they launched the important work of One Bright Star were, and remain:
- Created a symbol to identify grieving parents to help recognize and support them with a hug, a smile, or just talk about their child.
- To help others
- They wanted to make something good out of a bad situation
- To create a legacy for their children
- To be there for someone – unlike when they did not have anyone available
- To provide someone to listen
- Educate the general population about grief
- Make people more comfortable to talk about the loss
My Bright Shining Star
Alone in the dark
I stare into the blackness.
This is the truth;
No promises, no wishes, no dreams
Can ever bring you back.
In the depths of this darkness
God guides me to the light,
Twinkling, growing stronger, restoring my sight.
Far from my touch,
But close within my heart
I see you, my child,
Forever my bright shining star.
– written by the founders
The shining star is not only a symbol of your lost child, but, with God’s help, may you feel the strength to carry on, to cherish yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow.
A vision of the founders of One Bright Star is that people will recognize the symbol and will reach out to those who have suffered such a loss with greater compassion, and with hugs and support.
Children's Memorial Site
A 30 foot fountain and reflection pool memorial was built in the spring of 2003 in Mankato, MN, the founding place of One Bright Star. The City of Mankato donated the park land and local businesses and labor groups donated materials and labor to fully fund this $150,000 project. The memorial site is located on the corner of East Main and Victory Drive in Mankato, MN. The objective of the memorial is to give friends and families a place to gather to remember their special child. It will also be a visible reminder for all of us that the death of a child is not something that one ever overcomes.
Built by the Mankato Valley Building & Construction Trades Council. The union workers received the 2004 Bea Kersten Project Award for building the One Bright Star Children’s Memorial.
“Thank you to the many volunteers who poured their hearts, souls, talents and time into the building of this memorial.”