CaringBridge keeps families and friends up to date during a medical crisis

Maggie Jack (4), who is completing her treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Photo: Becky Johnson.

Gilbert pediatrician Tim Jacks, DO, and his wife, Anna, found out in August 2014 that their little girl, Maggie, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood.

“When you get that diagnosis it pretty much rocks your world,” says Jacks.

The diagnosis took the family down a road no parent wants to travel. Along the way, it could be tiring and difficult to keep friends and family members up to date.

“Time and attention get pulled away from the child, where it needs to be,” Jacks explains. That’s why he and Anna turned to CaringBridge. The website allows families to post information and pictures to keep friends and relatives informed about a loved one who is undergoing a medical crisis. People who visit the site can leave supportive comments.

“For me, it made the most sense; it got the job done,” says Jacks. “It was just straightforward. Facebook might be difficult for some family members to access. We could have set up our own website but I didn’t want to do that.”

Jacks found the site extremely helpful in letting people know what was happening with his daughter. He’s still using it today, as Maggie, now 4, completes her treatment.

“The social support families receive from CaringBridge is vital to their overall well-being,” says Beth Betcher, public relations specialist for the non-profit organization.

JoAnn Hardegger, Darrin Swanson, Sona Mehring, CaringBridge
JoAnn Hardegger and Darrin Swanson hold a picture of their baby Brighid, who inspired Sona Mehring (standing) to create CaringBridge. Photo courtesy of CaringBridge.

The site’s founder, 54-year-old Sona Mehring, was inspired to create it when her good friends JoAnn Hardegger and Darrin Swanson had a premature baby in 1997.

Mehring, who was living in Minnesota at the time, was tasked with giving friends and relatives the medical updates.

“It was too emotionally draining, so she (Sona) thought there had to be a better way,” Betcher explains. “She already created websites for a living and thought, ‘Why can’t I create a website where I can type out everything that is happening and have a section that allows people to respond back?’”

Baby Brighid, who unfortunately did not survive, inspired the CaringBridge site.

In February the site reached a milestone: 2 billion visitors since its inception. In Arizona, one in 12 people used CaringBridge in 2015.

Jacks counts himself among that number, and is thankful. The prognosis for his daughter is good and the site was a lifeline when they needed it. “Without a resource like that, if you have big families and lots of friends, you have a never-ending stream of text [messages] and phone calls,” he says.

For more information, visit

Jacks family, CaringBridge
The Jacks family (from left): Eli, Anna, Maggie and Tim. Photo courtesy of the family.