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July 14, 2016

Georgetown's Colin Nally pays it forward
Georgetown Record
By Maggie van Galen

Colin Nally, 14, is a Georgetownian, a rising ninth grader at the middle high school, a sports enthusiast, a friend and a son. At first glance, he is just like every other kid, but on the inside, he is a boy who suffered the loss of his father, hero, mentor and role model way too young.

Rick Nally, a Georgetown youth sports coach and board member of the Georgetown Athletic Association, died at the age of 53 in October 2011. Over the past five years, his son Colin has gone through the grieving and healing process that such a loss brings, and now hopes to “pay it forward” in an effort to help other children that have lost a loved one.

Colin and his mom, Julie Nally, have attended a bereavement and grief summer camp called Camp Stepping Stones offered by Care Dimensions. It's an annual family retreat for those dealing with the death of a close one, offering traditional camp combined with activities to help them learn to express their grief.

“After three years of attending Camp Stepping Stones as a camper, I decided to pay it forward and volunteer this year,” Colin said. “I’m hoping to make other kids feel better and to be a positive role model for kids who need it.

"I know how important it is to be a friendly face for those who are feeling sad and to show that even though I’ve experienced a devastating loss, I’m doing OK," he said. "I learned so much about myself at camp: how to de-stress when I’m feeling sad or anxious; how to relax and breathe deeply; how writing about my feelings in a journal can help. I learned that grief is a process and that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Camp Stepping Stones provided a lifeline to me and my son at a very difficult time,” said Julie. “What we learned at camp has proved to be invaluable to both of us, especially on the tough days.

"We look forward to volunteering at camp this summer," she said. "It’s a very special place for helping and healing.”

Giving back

Nate Lamkin, director of bereavement services and program development for Care Dimensions, explained that, “One of the most common feelings that children have is that they hate feeling different from their peers, thinking they are ‘that kid that lost their parent or loved one.’ It is that feeling of otherness. At Camp Stepping Stones, everyone is the same in that respect -- children make connections and friendship and the healing begins.”

Colin agreed, explaining how he “met kids who were in the same shoes as me. We didn’t talk a lot about our family members who had passed away, but it was comforting knowing that we each had similar experiences. It was also good to know that you didn’t have to talk about your loved one if you didn’t want to.”

“We get to see people heal and grow in the face of very difficult circumstances,” Lamkin continued. “This renews our faith in the strength and hope in the human spirit. There is nothing better that seeing a child be able to integrate a terrible loss and move forward in a healthy way, and in Colin’s case to really thrive.”

Paying it forward is a concept that traces its origins all the way back to 317 BC when it was used as a key plot element in the ancient Greek comedy by Menander, called "Dyskolos." For Colin, it seems this notion is becoming a way of life.

He and his mom started the Rick Nally Memorial Fund, which awards a $1,000 scholarship to two GHS graduates based on student need and community service. In October, they will be hosting a walk to raise money for Care Dimensions at St. John’s Prep, Rick’s alma mater, and every year they collect a huge number of toys for the Toys for Tots charity.

“Colin enjoys giving back like his dad did,” Julie explained. “He knows it's important.”

Respect and admiration

Although he may not fully understand it yet, Colin is respected and admired by his community, friends, coaches and parents.

Here’s what a few had to say:

“I am not surprised one bit by Colin’s willingness to volunteer his time for such an important cause,” said longtime family friend Scott MacDonald. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree at all. He is a product of a strong and close-knit family who puts a high value on helping to build a strong community, especially for our youth.

"And Julie sets her own high standards," said MacDonald. "Not only has she done an amazing job of ensuring that Colin could somehow find ways to cope with the tragic loss of his dad, but she also continues to play the all-important role as a grade school educator.

“Colin’s desire to help others who have lost a parent or someone else close to them is indicative of the type of kid he is,” continued MacDonald. “Even before Rick passed, Colin was always thoughtful, generous and caring way beyond his years. He is always thinking of his friends. Hopefully Colin’s story inspires others to pick themselves up, brush themselves off and find a way to help others who are also faced with a huge loss or misfortune.

"Rick would be so proud of this choice and I know that Julie is too," he said.

“I’ve had the opportunity to coach Colin on multiple teams and it has always been a pleasure,” said baseball coach and Georgetown father Sean Curtin. “He plays hard, is very coachable, leads by example and is a true sportsman and gentleman on and off the field.

"With age, the game has become more competitive and Colin rises above most with a quiet confidence and a determination to be the best as a leader and a key player on his teams," said Curtin. "I can’t say enough great things about Colin both as a player and as an upstanding young man.”

"I feel like it's good that he'll be a counselor, because I don't think he would have been ready to do that last year,” said Colin's longtime friend Timmy Chianca, also going into ninth grade at GMHS this fall. “Colin has never been outwardly sad in front of his friends, but we knew he was. He seems more happy now, and maybe more accepting of the situation. I admire him for doing this."

Camp Stepping Stones will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 16, at Glen Urquhart School in Beverly. You can visit for more information.

Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.