Gift of Grief Support Helps Iowa Family During the Holidays

No matter the situation, the death of a loved one always comes too soon. Stefenie Wright was given less than a month to prepare for the death of her father. “He died from a very unexpected cancer,” says Stefenie. “We found out and 23 days later, he was gone.”

Still reeling from the grief of losing her father to cancer, Stefenie received a knock on her door during the holiday season. “There was a woman there with a great big box of presents and I was wondering, ‘what is this?’” remembers Stefenie. “I felt like I shouldn’t be getting gifts or ‘celebrating,’ but [the Cheer Box] helped me to understand that it was okay to also be kind of happy in the moment.”

EveryStep Cheer Boxes are a holiday box of 12, specially chosen gifts that go to families and individuals that have felt the pain of losing a loved one during the past year. During the holiday season, EveryStep wants to remind them that they have our support and care.

Stefenie says she and her family opened the Cheer Box gifts together. “It was very cathartic. It would help us talk about it. The puzzle was our favorite thing. The kids really enjoyed doing that because it was all for grandpa. The Cheer Box was amazing.”   

Having just moved back to Iowa from New Jersey when her father passed away, Stefenie lacked the support networks she had on the east coast. A friend recommended contacting EveryStep to take advantage of the free grief support groups, which are offered in person and potentially online, as needed. “The grief support groups made me understand that there were other people going through death and grief at the same time. When you’re going through grief alone, you just feel like you’re isolated — nobody cares, there’s nobody you can ask questions to, you just feel different. So, when everyone was talking about the same questions and feelings we had, you just felt connected.”

Now, Stefenie is giving back. In the years since her father’s death, she has donated, wrapped and helped deliver Cheer Boxes. “There are just so many ways you can help!” she says. Stefenie knows first-hand the effect receiving a Cheer Box had on her grief journey and that’s one reason she continues to support the program.

“It helps me to walk in the memory of my dad, and I know [those receiving a Cheer Box] are going to get a glimpse of happiness from each thing they open or something that they read, or it’s just going to bring a bit of calmness for that moment.”

This holiday season, 775 Cheer Boxes will be delivered to grieving individuals and families throughout Iowa. Donations for the program are accepted year-round at (Choose Grief & Loss Services/Amanda the Panda from the drop-down menu).  To learn how to nominate someone to receive a Cheer Box during the 2023 holiday season, email For information about EveryStep’s free grief support services, visit

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.