Ambrose’s Angels continues to spread kindness and healing

Article originally published on July 19, 2017 by Kaila Braley on the Marshfield Mariner

In the wake of tragedy, a local family is looking to spread kindness and love.

Maggie Mancuso and her family, who live in Dorchester, bought a beach house in Marshfield on Foster Avenue just about a year ago, right before her baby, Ambrose Valentino, was born July 25.

Just three weeks later, Ambrose died suddenly.

As Mancuso wandered the beach, searching for healing, she began picking up rocks to bring home. She painted words and phrases on them, hopeful sayings and quotes to remind people to be kind.

As she began decorating the alley next to her house with the rocks, neighbors took notice and would stop by to talk to her about her project. She would tell them about Ambrose, and people would share their stories of struggle and loss with her.

Mancuso always encouraged people to take rocks that resonated with them, and spread kindness when they could, but especially on the 25th of every month in memory of Ambrose, using the hashtag #AmbrosesAngels.

With Ambrose’s first birthday coming up this month, Mancuso said she hopes even more people take a minute to spread kindness.

“It doesn’t solve the pain, but we’re helping to heal each other’s pain and we’re helping the world together,” she said.

Mancuso’s mother, Mary Moran, said the response from the neighbors in Marshfield has been overwhelmingly kind.

“The neighbors we’ve met are saints,” she said. “It’s been an unbelievable experience.”

Mancuso initially thought the beach house might be a good escape – a place she could hide away from her regular life to deal with her grief. But it’s turned into a place where friends and strangers alike have come to find peace alongside her.

“The alley has turned into a place of solace,” Mancuso said.

After Mancuso shared her story with the Marshfield Mariner in January, people from all over have reached out to her to share their stories and ask for her to make a rock in memory of someone.

She has also started a rock garden dedicated to mothers who have lost children.

“Many women are too scared to share their stories,” Mancuso said. “After I came out with my story, so many women reached out to me. Thousands have reached out to me with their own personal stories.”

Megan Magoon lives in the city and first met Mancuso because their sons are buried just steps away from each other at Cedar Grove Cemetery.

Magoon lost her son, Gregory Michael nearly a year before Ambrose was born, and in the first year after he passed, Magoon said she felt, among many emotions, alone. Meeting Mancuso has helped her to be more open with her grief and inspired her to find a way to spread kindness in Gregory’s memory.

“Even though my son was born well over a year before her Ambrose, I credit her for helping me to speak about my loss, to speak my son’s name and not worry about making others feel uncomfortable,” Magoon said.

Lisa Gale lives in South Dakota but visits Marshfield in the summer. She saw Mancuso’s story online and felt compelled to stop by and see the rock garden when she came to visit this summer.

Before she went to Foster Avenue, she picked up rocks from the beach and painted them, so she could add to the garden.

When she arrived to the alley, Mancuso happened to be outside.

“It was great to meet this loving mother and personally thank her for the love and kindness she shares, all in memory of her precious son, Ambrose,” Gale said.

Gale said it was hard to put it into words why she wanted to see the rocks for herself.

“Sometimes you just know,” she said.

Gale’s church is planning to start a rock garden at their annual festival this year, after being inspired by Mancuso’s story.

“Maggie’s determination to spread kindness and love in the Marshfield area has lead to a ripple effect - over 1,600 miles away,” she said.

Mancuso said despite the difficulty she’s experiencing with grief and fear of sharing her story so publicly, she’s glad it’s opened up the conversation for other women going through the same loss. She signs all of her rocks with a heart and six dots to represent her six children, including Ambrose and two miscarriages she had previously.

“These are things people don’t talk about,” Mancuso said. “It’s something that should be talked about. These babies were here and should shine bright for all to see.”

Magoon said the support she gets from Mancuso and the way her positive messages and actions inspire her have helped her to deal with her son’s loss more openly.

“I’ll see people posting things on Facebook and Instagram hashtaging Ambrose’s Angels and saying something nice about how the message or picture made their day. To me, that means Ambrose’s short little life touches yet another person,” Magoon said. “I guess when you’re truly an angel you only need a short time on Earth to touch countless lives.”

If you do an act of kindness on any day – but particularly on July 25 – you can use the hashtag #AmbrosesAngels to let the family see the support.


ACTS OF KINDNESS: Foster Ave. rock garden helps heal

Article originally published on January 11, 2017 by Kaila Braley on the Marshfield Mariner

When Maggie Mancuso looks out the side window of her Marshfield beach home, she often sees strangers there, sometimes praying, crying or just taking a moment to look at the rocks she had laid out.

They’ve seen a huge range of visitors, she said, adding that she can never predict whom she’ll see when she looks out the window at the rock garden.

“One day I looked out the window and there were guys on motorcycles stopping to take pictures of the rocks. They were huge guys,” she said.

Mancuso has been decorating the alleyway beside her home with rocks she’s found on the beach and then painted and written on as a way to find healing and peace since her son, Ambrose Valentino, died shortly after he was born this past summer.

Ambrose, her fourth child, was born on July 25, and died suddenly only three weeks later.

“I didn’t know what to do. I just walked the beach, looking for healing. I have three other children and I wanted something I could do with them,” she said.

So she began to collect rocks to write and draw on, and set them along the alleyway leading to the beach. She told her children they would create the rock garden in Ambrose’s memory.

“I kept writing and writing and writing, and we started getting visitors,” she said. “I continued to walk and meet people, and the more I walked and drew on the rocks, the more people came. So many people have come.”

Her neighbor, Tanya Stanton, has a summer home on 3rd Street, across from Mancuso’s home on Foster Avenue.

“I thought it was beautiful,” she said of the rocks. “It’s amazing how strong she is.”

Stanton said she sees the photos Mancuso puts online of the rocks.

“You can see his [Ambrose’s] presence in the pictures,” she said. “I hope it can bring her more healing. There must be so much grief behind it.”

Mancuso encourages people to come by and take any rock that is an inspiration to them. She hopes the rock garden spreads peace and healing for other people.

“I try to do it for other people. I try to take pain away from others. If someone can come and read a rock and go home inspired, that’s what I want,” she said.

Mancuso, whose primary residence is in Dorchester, bought the home on Foster Avenue with her family this summer before Ambrose was born, and it was the first place she took him when he came home from the hospital in July.

“I took him straight here, and when he heard the waves, he fell asleep,” she said.

Recently, Mancuso brought some of the rocks back to Dorchester and left them on her friends’ doorsteps to bring them a little kindness and joy. Mancuso doesn’t mind if people take the rocks or if they get swept away with the waves because she just continues to make more.

On a night she feels inspired, she might write and draw on 40 rocks, she said.

Mancuso is constantly changing the rock display, and her family helps. Her children draw on the rocks, and her mother created a nativity scene for the holidays.

Mancuso also hopes to inspire others to commit acts of kindness on the 25th of every month in honor of Ambrose Valentino. People who do so can use the hashtag #AmbrosesAngels to track the acts of kindness done in his honor.

“I’m asking everyone on the 25th to do an act of kindness in honor of Ambrose. I call it Amrbose’s Angels,” she said, adding it can be as simple as saying hi to someone or buying someone a cup of coffee.

Mancuso hopes the efforts help to honor her baby and to spread kindness, inspiration and healing to anyone who needs it.

“People don’t slow down. When tragedy hits, it slows you down,” she said. “I constantly take an extra second and ask people if they’re OK. Everyone has something.”


Little Angels Splash Pad Dedication Set for June 3

Article originally published on May 30, 2017 by Marjorie Turner Hollman on the Bellingham Bulletin

There is a brand-new reason to visit Silver Lake this summer: the Little Angels splash pad is now open and ready for visitors. The official opening celebration takes place Saturday, June 3, with a rain date of Sunday, June 4, 1-4 PM, and the official dedication will take place at 2PM. Limited food will be offered during this celebration, with live music by local musician Jamie Barrett, kids’ activities, and of course, the main attraction, the splash pad, which will be up and running.

The splash pad, located adjacent to the playground near the swimming beach, has bollards that will activate the water spray for a few minutes when tapped. The non-slip surface and absence of standing water make this a safe environment for children (and adults!) of all ages to safely enjoy. The original plans for the playground at Silver Lake included a splash pad, but the feature was never installed because of lack of funds.

The just-finished project is the result of a widespread community response to a local family’s grief over the sudden loss of their twin, Alex, who died of SIDS at 44 days old in May of 2015, leaving behind his twin, Ben, and three other siblings, Matt, Sophie and Kaitlyn, as well as their parents, Wendy and Jon Shaw of Bellingham. When the Shaw family approached the selectmen about their idea of raising funds to provide a splash pad at Silver Lake in memory of Alex, the project was quickly approved and is now a reality.

In reflecting on the success of the fundraising effort, Wendy noted, “The Little Angels Splash Pad would not have been possible without the help and support from many, many people. A big thanks goes out to My Splash Pad for donating the custom ladybug feature and for their donation of time and expertise to design and install the pad and safety surface (at cost), and to Harris and Company Landscape, who donated their time and expertise to design and install the hardscape (at cost). Thanks to Asphalt Engineering and Signs by Cam for their in-kind donations of asphalt and a sign, respectively.
  
Special thanks also goes out to our local business sponsors for their support, including M. Weisman Roofing Co, Regional Industrial Services Corp, Marty's Auto Service, Bellingham Towing, Charlie's Tire & Service Center, Inc and Prestige Scientific Staffing, Inc. We were honored to be a part of Sean Perkins’s Eagle Scout project, which brings new picnic tables and benches to the splash pad area. And finally, thanks to the hundreds of friends, families, and businesses that made this project possible, including all of the children who helped us raise funds in their own unique and creative ways. All of my helpers have given me the gift of their experience and time.”

The Shaw family is looking forward to sharing this gift at Silver Lake Beach with the wider community. Wendy explained, “We were overwhelmed and humbled by all the generosity and support we received from family, friends and the Bellingham community after Alex passed away, helping us through the darkest of our days, so we decided the splash pad would be a nice way to give something back to our community and would be a nice way to memorialize Alex's short life. Our older kids have always enjoyed playing in splash pads and we know Alex would have loved it too; it just brings them such happiness to run carefree through the water. It is our hope that cooling off in the splash pad will bring joy to many local kids over many years, and with essentially no standing water (just water spraying around) it is accessible to kids of virtually all ages and abilities.”

Donations are still welcome to provide a fund for continued necessary maintenance in the coming years. Payments can be made via credit card two ways: PayPal.Me/LittleAngelsSplash or https://www.crowdrise.com/splashpadforalex. For a tax deductible donation, checks made out to the town of Bellingham Splash Pad Fund can be mailed to P.O. Box 752, Bellingham, MA 02019.