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After an unimaginable loss, a Pennsylvania family helps others lost in grief.

Drew Michael Taylor died in 2006 when a logging truck hit his family's minivan in the Outer Banks. He was 3.

Drew Michael Taylor was killed in an auto accident in the Outer Banks, NC, on June 13, 2006. In the wake of his death, his parents started a foundation to help others who grieve.
Drew Michael Taylor was killed in an auto accident in the Outer Banks, NC, on June 13, 2006. In the wake of his death, his parents started a foundation to help others who grieve.Read moreJason Nark

Sometimes Marcie Taylor will scan obituaries in rural Pennsylvania, and words like “suddenly” or “kindergarten” will stand out. The simple math, just a few short years between birth and death, seems too much to bear.

Taylor, 54, will reach out to those families, sometimes, because she understands.

On June 13, 2006, the Taylor family was heading to the beach in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, when a logging truck t-boned their minivan. Marcie broke her neck, pelvis, and arm. Her husband, Randy, crawled into the back seat, to be with Drew, their curly-headed son who loved to make chocolate chip pancakes.

Later, when Marcie was stabilized, she was flown to Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va. to be by Drew’s side. Doctors there told Marcie and Randy there was nothing more they could do for him.

“This is Drew Michael Taylor, a child of God,“ Randy told hospital staff meeting the boy for the first and last time.

Randy and Marcie told Drew mommy and daddy loved him. He was 3 years and 7 months old.

The death of a child can break a family. Grief, when untended, can grow wild and overtake the living. The Taylors understood that in the wake of Drew’s death, and found local support groups for parents, people who understood. Finding a support system for their daughter, Lauren, who was 6 years old at the time of the accident, meant a two-hour drive from Shippensburg, Pa. where they live. Marcie said the miles were worth it.

The parental support groups and the care their daughter received inspired the Taylors to quit their teaching jobs and dedicate themselves to helping others mired in grief. The couple started the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation in 2008 as a grief support program, initially for parents who lost children, on the nearby Shippensburg University campus. In 2022, they opened Drew’s Hope, their center in a refurbished dentist’s office beside a farm. The facility has a kitchen, libraries for children and adults, meeting rooms, and the “storm shelter big energy room,” a place for grieving children to express emotions on the padded wrestling mat or punching bag.

Later this year, they’ll host another Blue Butterfly Ball, a formal event for children and families who’ve lost loved ones. It’s an alternative to father-daughter or mother-son dances.

“We realized this is what we need to do,” Marcie, said on a recent Wednesday morning at the Coffee, Crafting & Conversation discussion at Drew’s Hope. Here, after everyone grabs a coffee or tea at Drew’s Hope, Marcie lays out simple rules. No one has to speak and no one’s allowed no judge.

At the group gathering on this Wednesday, one woman spoke about her son, who struggled with drug issues for years after a sports injury. She found him, dead in his room, from a Fentanyl overdose.

“He was doing really well,” she said, “until he wasn’t.”

The Taylors quickly realized that in rural Pennsylvania, they couldn’t limit their grief work to parents who lost a child or children who lost a sibling. They vowed to help anyone struggling with grief and people with different stories and similar pain, began showing up.

“One of the big things in grief is people telling us how we should grieve, how long we should grieve for. We’re here for support,” she said, ‘not to ‘should’.”

A woman named Janice told the group she lost her wife, in October, after bouts with cancer, COVID-19, and heart failure. She said the judgment attached to her marriage made the grieving worse, particularly in rural Pennsylvania.

“It’s hard for me to even be here,” she said, “to say out loud that I loved her, that we were best friends and we did everything together and I miss her.”

Another woman spoke about losing her daughter, Kristen, to suicide and the emotional wreckage it caused for those left behind.

“There’s a stigma attached to it,” she said.

Throughout the discussion, most of the women knitted scarves or cross-stitched patterns. Kristen’s mother showed off an Amish quilt. Kathy Campbell, who lost her son, Christopher, in a single-car accident in 2011, said for a time all she could do was knit or cry.

“I think knitting kind of saved my life and I’m not being overdramatic,” she said. “There are days when you feel like you’re not going to make it and knitting gave me something to do, to get out of my own head.”

Another woman, who lost her husband, said Drew’s Hope was her only “peace and solace.”

Marcie said she has no plans to expand the reach of Drew’s Hope and the foundation’s work, at the moment, because she still has school-age children. Her son Seth was born in 2008.

Many of the groups at Drew’s Hope, particularly those focused on crafting, draw mostly women but Randy Taylor stopped by to say a few words too. He said talking to other fathers in particular has helped him.

“I would go to the groups but I didn’t talk a lot,” Randy, 54, said. “I learned a lot from people who made mistakes or had some difficulty in their grieving process.”

Marcie said “grieving styles” aren’t just broken down by gender. Individual personalities play a part but the proverbial stiff upper lip is often passed down through generations. That’s all changing rapidly, she said, as the world grows more comfortable talking about grief.

“Randy got a card and it was just signed ‘o words, John’ and that’s the one that stood out to him and that’s the one he held onto because it spoke the truth. There are no words for this. There’s nothing that can fix this,” she said.

Some people will pull back, Marcie said, because they don’t know how to handle it. Others will stand by.

“There will be people in your life who get it, though,” she said, “and they will step up.”

The Drew Michael Taylor Foundation is a nonprofit and donations can be made by visiting