August 21, 2014

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Mother creates ‘Day of Healing’ in daughter’s honor

ELYRIA — Last September, her 29-year-old daughter passed away after struggling with eating disorders for most of her life.

Today, Gail Stumphauzer has organized the first Women’s Day of Healing in her honor.

The daylong event at Lorain County Community College will offer inspirational and practical tools for women and girls to help them realize, “I am enough.”

“Margeau was extremely sensitive and very susceptible to the judgments of the world,” Stumphauzer said of her daughter.

Despite treatment over the years, Margeau’s eating disorder caused the health problems that ultimately led to her death, Stumphauzer said.

“Depression, eating disorders, alcoholism — those are all symptoms,” Stumphauzer said. “Really the cause is not feeling good enough.”

The purpose of the day of healing is to give women and young girls a way to deal with the challenges of life.

“The positive voices need to be much louder and much more frequent than the negative ones we get from society and the media — the ones that tell us how we should think, act and be,” Stumphauzer said.

Some of the positive voices today include The Plain Dealer columnist Regina Brett and singer, songwriter, concert pianist and author Melissa Daggett.

An award-winning journalist, Brett wrote a column in 2006 when she turned 50 titled “50 Life Lessons.” It became her most popular column ever. In 2010, she published a book, “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours.”

Daggett’s book, “Mean Girls, Desperate Women: The Modern Epidemic of Unhappiness” deals with difficult issues that adolescents and grown up women face in their social worlds and teaches them how to overcome obstacles to their happiness and personal growth as well as how to discover and thrive.

The day includes breakout sessions for the women and girls, music, video presentations, lunch and even art.

“I consider this my job now,” said Stumphauzer, who retired after 14 years as CEO of Leadership Lorain County following her daughter’s death. “If we can help one girl, one woman, and we are able to do it, we definitely will.”

The idea for the day of healing came about as Stumphauzer made arrangements for Margeau’s funeral.

Margeau, a 2000 graduate of Lorain Catholic High School, loved music and nature. She majored in business at the University of Akron, but was “smart enough to do whatever she wanted,” Stumphauzer said. She talked about writing a book, and many people told her she should go into counseling.

So when the funeral director asked where donations could be made, Stumphauzer realized she didn’t want the money to go to some random foundation.

But she also knew her daughter loved to help people and always saw the best in people.

“I believe her spirit is behind it (the Women’s Day of Healing),” Stumphauzer said. “She always wanted to help people from the time she was 5 years old. So many people have told me how she reached out to them, helped them, or gave them advice when they needed it. I think she would be happy to know that in some way, her life has carried on.”

In addition to the Women’s Day of Healing, which has grown exponentially since Stumphauzer first began planning, there also is Margeau’s Free To Be

Project  — a website, free2bproject.org, which will offer support and resources to girls and women on an ongoing basis.

Funding for the Women’s Day of Healing and the website was the result of donations made at the time of Margeau’s death, a donation from the 100 Women of Lorain County Who Care, and donations raised by runners in the Cleveland Marathon.

Stumphauzer’s connections through Leadership Lorain County also provided talented volunteers with amazing abilities, she said.

Participants in the Women’s Day of Healing will be invited to paint a tile representing their “power, purpose and passion in life.” The tiles will become part of a 4-by-8-foot mural with the Margeau’s Free To Be Project logo and slogan, “I Am Worthy,” that eventually will be displayed at LCCC.

“We all have the ability to change someone’s life by paying attention, caring and letting people know they are worthwhile,” Stumphauzer said. “They are good enough just the way they are. I think this is going to be an amazing day.”

Contact Christina Jolliffe at 329-7155 or ctnews@chroniclet.com.