A yoga benefit to serve homeless adults and teens on April 16th

Ellie Morin died on December 2011, at age twenty of an overdose, and Katy Harrington of cancer in 2017. The Morin family of South Boston was left to grieve the loss of a caring, kind and promising daughter just beginning adult life. Michelle  Harrington was still in shock when her much loved and gutsy sister,  Katy Donovan,  died at forty-nine, nine months after a diagnosis of vaginal cancer.  Unfortunately, these are not unheard-of stories. What is different is the outreach and collaborations the families have since formed to remember and serve others, including an event on April 16th from 9:30-11:30 at the Artists for Humanity.  On that day, Patti Morin, mother of Ellie and two older children, Matt and Katie, will join forces with Michelle Harrington, to create a time of calm and wellness. They invited popular yoga instructor, David Vendetti, to share in a yoga session with all donations benefiting adults and teens experiencing homelessness.

This is only one initiative of the Ellie Project. Years have passed, but grief inevitably still grips Patti, her husband Scott and the rest of the family, but it was the first year in 2011 on the anniversary of her death, when Matt, then in his twenties, had an inspiration. “It was a year after, and we asked ourselves what we could do on that day. Matt suggested we buy and collect gloves and hats and give them to people who needed them, and that is how it all began in 2014, said Patti Morin. “It has always been an organic kind of thing and we tried different ways to help, and eventually it led to the Ellie Project, a non-profit.” Though still sorrowful, she also has a determination and a life force that has propelled her and the project forward.

  Patti, a former English teacher at Pelham High School in NH, sees education as transcending a classroom. So, it is not only raising funds for people living on the street, but for those in transitional housing and for teens in programs. And, in a unique approach she engages suburban high schools to have “hands-on’ experience with the people whose lives are impacted. Through discussion and  preparation, the students with adult mentors   help to package, deliver and engage with people that have different challenges. “Through talking to people, it humanizes them, and I hope they have greater empathy and less judgment.”

“It may sound unusual to go from a child of addiction to homelessness,” she said, “but I’m informed by how hard life can be.” So, the need for socks, which she said is the most needed and most often overlooked, and other basics, absorbs her energy, but it is more the stories and lives that motivate her to seek donations from businesses and individuals, to develop new collaborations, and to engage high school students to think more deeply. “It’s about a feeling a connection more than anything else.

A natural match in loss they have suffered and vigor they possess, Michelle Harrington, also of South Boston, met Patti Morin through the yoga world in South Boston.

“My sister was gruff, a city worker with firefighters all her adult life, and you wouldn’t know right away she had this amazing soft side. Particularly at Christmas, she would hate to see anyone go without and you saw her heart,” said Michelle. Katy left three children, two in their twenties and a thirteen-year-old, and a mourning family.

“I had a hard time after,” said Michelle. “I was depressed, and gained a lot of weight and finally went to my first yoga class but couldn’t do anything. David Vendetti gave my private lessons to start, and it changed things for me,” she said.

“The first year after she died, I knew someone who worked at Project Place and collected things for the teenagers at Christmas to honor Katy. You know, people don’t understand the things kids go through. What teenager wants to be homeless? They suffer in ways people don’t see,” she said

“Does the loss get easier? It does, but there are days when your dissolve into heartache. I think about her all the time, but I take her with me,” said Patti.

“How can we be more compassionate?” is a question Michelle Harrington  asks as her grief is also transformed.

Join Patti Morin, Michelle Harrington and friends and neighbors on April 16th, a Sunday morning at the beautiful Artists for Humanity on 100 W 2nd St. and get a yoga experience.  Donate for those who need it most.   All levels are welcomed and as Michelle Harrington said, “It will be a great time. We hope people come to just feel the vibe.” It is also one more step to transform what could be heartache into a time of joy, self-care and connection. What a beautiful way to spend a Sunday morning and help remember.

(Carol Masshardt can be reached at carolhardt@comcast.net)


Michelle Harrington of the Katy-Ellie


Patti Morin-Founder of the Ellie Project