WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 4-10, 2012)

HUMAN SERVICES

CaringBridge: 15 years of connecting caregivers.” By Michelle Healy. USA Today. June 7, 2012. Fifteen years ago, before there was a Facebook, Twitter or even MySpace, Sona Mehring turned to social networking to get the word out about the challenging health condition of a close friend’s new baby. Brighid Swanson was born almost three months early to JoAnn Hardeggar and Darrin Swanson. Mehring, then a website designer in Eagan, Minn., decided to create a site to post progress reports about the baby. During the baby’s brief life — she died after nine days — “I had this incredible experience of being able to bring these caring social networks together for my friend and the baby,” Mehring says. Today, Brighid’s legacy lives on in CaringBridge, the not-for-profit site Mehring launched in 1997 so others can easily create private Web pages during a medical crisis. Since its inception, more than 400,000 personal CaringBridge pages have been created. Every day, 500,000 people visit the site, which today celebrates its birthday and branches out with a new SupportPlanner feature. The service gives users a place to “coordinate care and organize helpful tasks” — making and bringing meals, providing child care during appointment times, caring for pets, or doing household chores. CaringBridge is also unveiling a redesigned website, which features a new “Amplifier Hub” to encourage and support volunteer efforts. The site, which does not accept ads, is supported largely by individual donations, Mehring says. About 8% of its budget comes from foundations and in-kind gifts. CarePages, a similar health-focused social network that launched in 2000, does accept advertisements.

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