HEALTH

Sandy Widow Organizes Charity To Support People Who Lose Spouses

Sep 23, 2020, 6:43 PM | Updated: 10:04 pm

SANDY, Utah – When a Sandy woman lost her husband, she reached out to other widows and widowers. It was so helpful that she decided to organize to make a bigger impact.

Then, the pandemic hit. Now, they are finding new ways to heal from a devastating loss.

Some losses you can’t foresee.

“He had just always wanted to save the world,” said Heather Okiishi.

Okiishi and her husband, Mark, welcomed adventure.

“(He) wanted to be a hero. So, when the CIA called, he was elated,” she said.

Mark’s work in the Central Intelligence Agency took them around the world. One day in 2016, she couldn’t find him, and had a terrible feeling.

“That night is forever, you know, seared into my mind,” Okiishi said.

When this incredible woman lost her husband in 2016, she joined a Facebook group for widows and widowers. Heather…

Posted by Heather Simonsen KSL on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

He died from suicide.

“That was a shock to everyone,” Okiishi said.

Heather was left reeling, slowly picking up the pieces. She joined a Facebook group for widows and widowers.

“I started to see people who didn’t have life insurance, who didn’t have community support, who didn’t have all these other blessings I was receiving,” Okiishi said.

She started a charity called WW Ministering Angels to help others who lost spouses and face the unexpected financial hardships that often come with it.

Back in March, KSL-TV cameras filmed Okiishi prepping for a fundraising gala. Then COVID-19 struck.

“We were so close. It was in two weeks,” she said.

They had to cancel  the event, but soon recognized new problems for the people they were trying to help.

“They can’t have a funeral. The grieving process is harder right now,” Okiishi said.

For the newly widowed, saying good-bye is even harder during the pandemic.

“To not get those hugs and physical contact,” she said.

Members banded together through group chats, hikes, and online game nights.

“You can share the screen and everyone uses their phone as the game player,” she said.

When they were really needed, they showed up.

Heather Okiishi and Kimberly Garrard, both widows, work in an online meeting to plan a fundraising event for their group WW Ministering Angels. (KSL-TV)

“He passed away of a heart attack,” said Kimberly Garrard of her husband, Ben.

The Sandy woman’s son and daughter are dangerously heat intolerant because of a medical condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia, or POTS.

In summer, without air conditioning, “I couldn’t function,” said Samantha Garrard, who was frequently bed-ridden. “It would be sweltering in there.”

The foundation paid for and installed a new air conditioner.

“This was life-changing for my family,” Garrard said.

Kimberly Garrard, center, lost her husband, Ben. Her kids are dangerously heat intolerant. WW MinIstering Angels paid for and installed a new A/C for them. (KSL-TV)

Okiishi said even in giving back, she has received.

“It’s incredible to lighten burdens in other people. It lightens my own,” she said. “Even though it’s so painful and I’d do anything to have him back, I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”

WW Ministering Angels is having a fundraising event Friday, Sept. 25 at Wheeler Historic farm from 5 to 8:30 p.m. The event is free and you can purchase dinner for takeout.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/WWMinisteringAngels/.

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Sandy Widow Organizes Charity To Support People Who Lose Spouses