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Every time I think of this woman and her family, I become emotional. It’s hard to describe as I never met Dorothy or her husband Mike. I guess thinking of her my entire 12 mile march gave me a strange emotional connection to her.

“How do you tell your children that their Dad is dead?” Dorothy Barnett-Griffin had to find the words for her three children Kim, Derek and Zachary in November 2002 when John E. Barnett, Jr. was tragically killed in an automobile accident.

Now, five short years later, Mike Griffin, Dorothy’s husband and step father to Kim, Derek and Zachary, had to tell them that their precious mother, though a courageous fighter to the end, had died as a result of a terrible accident while participating in the Florida Ironman Triathlon.

It is Dorothy’s life and purpose that we wish to remember and honor. Her strength to persevere, to take care of her children, to dedicate herself to helping others find life after loss, to honor John, but to move forward with zeal and zest for new challenges showed the true nature of her character.

Dorothy found Journey of Hope Grief Support Center (JOH) shortly after John’s death because, she said, “I knew we needed some support and guidance to get through this horrible experience.”

In the months that followed Dorothy found “strength and healing in this wonderful group,” and more importantly to her, “my children started to talk and open up and see hope for the future.”

Though it was Journey of Hope’s mission as a nonprofit to support Dorothy, her children and other families grieving the death of loved ones, it was Dorothy, who became an extraordinary supporter of Journey of Hope.

Dorothy’s passion for the cause knew no bounds. She willingly told her own story to group after group in the community to raise awareness and support for our mission. As a board member, she joined the fund development team. She worked with strategic planning, got a new fundraising event off the ground, became the lead sponsor of our annual golf tournament and literally walked the streets on our behalf to gain support from community businesses. Memorably, Dorothy printed 10,000 copies of a flyer on her home printer—and talked local school districts into passing them out to students! Such was her willingness to go the distance for our cause, be it menial labor or standing before hundreds on formal occasions.

Dorothy’s energy and passion for Journey of Hope was matched by her desire to live her own life with joy and help her children find their own passions. In the midst of her personal quest, she began biking, noting, “I found out you can ride and cry at the same time.”

Along the way, she met Mike Griffin, another avid exerciser, and she and Mike married on July 16, 2005. Immediately, Mike became a part of Dorothy’s support team for Journey of Hope.

Together, they looked for a way to combine their love of exercise and training with fundraising for Journey of Hope Grief Support Center. That is why they chose, more than a year ago, to embark in rigorous training for the Florida Ironman Triathlon. For Mike this was a familiar race; for Dorothy, it would be a new but worthy challenge to help the cause.

As Dorothy wrote in the JOH newsletter: “One day of pushing your body beyond any limit that you thought possible. Sounds crazy? So call us crazy! Somehow it appeals to me as a measure of how far I’ve come on my journey.”

She also said, “I cannot tell you how much this organization has helped our family. I feel so strongly about the JOH mission that I serve on the Board of Directors, and this is one way I give back, so that any family that has suffered a loss can feel the support that we had.”

Dorothy asked her friends and friends of JOH to inspire her in her triathlon effort by donating toward a $10,000 goal. In inimitable Dorothy fashion, she reportedly inspired others, singing her way through the grueling loops of the ocean swim.

We don’t know what happened. We only know her heart faltered, and she was rescued from the water and rushed to the hospital. For days she fought for life, and for a time we just knew that our Dorothy, our champion, would win the race.

It was not to be. Somehow Mike Griffin had to find the words to tell Kim, Derek and Zachary that their mother lost the battle to live. Somehow we all must find the strength to mourn the loss of our friend, our mentor, our inspiration.

Dorothy—inspiring us even in death—donated her body’s organs to help others, and left her passion for Journey of Hope in the heart of Mike, who said, “if anything good is to come out of this, it has to benefit Journey of Hope. That’s what she wanted, that’s why she was here, that just has to happen.”

We will forever remember her contagious smile, her laughter, her can-do attitude. We will do all that we can to pay tribute to her memory by making Journey of Hope Grief Support Center stronger and better able to serve bereaved children and families. We know, somehow, that Dorothy is still cheering us on to reach new challenges and find meaning and joy in life.