Our Staff

Sarah Kroenke, LSW, CFT, FTExecutive Director & Co-Founder
Sarah Kroenke
LSW, CFT, FTExecutive Director & Co-Founder

Compassionate, patient and experienced in the field of bereavement support and crisis and trauma work

Counselor, author, consultant, local and national presenter

“Spending my days with grieving children, teens and their families is one of my greatest honors. It is a privilege to witness the courage and power of the human spirit’s ability to transform pain into hope and suffering into strength.”

For nearly 30 years, I have worked in the profession of end of life care and bereavement as a licensed social worker in hospice, a school grief counselor, program coordinator and co-owner of a private grief counseling practice. My career has been dedicated to providing support and counsel to children, teens, young adults and adults through individual counseling, grief support groups, and crisis and trauma work.

In addition, throughout my extensive career, I have presented locally and nationally on the topic of childhood bereavement, planned and facilitated family grief retreats and support groups for people living with cancer and their caregivers. My lifework has allowed me to author two books, Hope Heals: A Journal of Love, Loss and Memories and Words to Live By, write developmental grief support curriculums and other grief support booklets and published articles. It has been a privilege to have sat beside hundreds of hospice patients during their final breaths and to have counseled thousands of clients coping with the death of their loved one.

Cara Mearns-Thompson, LICSW, FTClinical Operations Director & Co-Founder
Cara Mearns-Thompson
LICSW, FTClinical Operations Director & Co-Founder

Calming, skilled listener, and empathetic to the unique needs of grieving children, teens, and families.

Counselor, educator, and local presenter

My work with grieving children and families began over 16 years ago while I was working as a hospice social worker. I found great privilege in being trusted to provide intimate in-home emotional support to families while anticipating the death of their loved one.

As a licensed clinical social worker, I have spent thousands of hours counseling grieving children, teens, young adults and their families through individual counseling, family counseling, grief support groups, and crisis and trauma response. Many years were spent supporting grieving children and teens in a school based grief support program. Within this program I was involved in crisis and trauma work in schools, in addition to the weekly grief support to students. I love the energy and natural wisdom of the children and teens that I have been privileged to support! I have co-authored a published school based grief curriculum, and presented on the topic of children’s grief, planned and facilitated family grief retreats. I am passionate about educating, and bringing awareness to the unique and individualized needs of childhood bereavement.

Penny SchumacherDevelopment Director
Penny Schumacher
Development Director

I have over 15 years of experience as a mission implementer, coalition builder, revenue generator and friendraiser. It has been my honor to be aligned with mission-driven, nonprofit institutions throughout my career including executive leadership roles as the Chief Advancement Officer for the St. Paul JCC, Executive Director of the Minneapolis College Foundation, Senior Development Officer for Hennepin Healthcare Foundation and Advancement Officer for NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center.

“My proudest moments are always when I have the privilege of working with like-minded activators committed to making a difference, inclusive values and impactful community relationships. I love to share compelling stories that lead to big-impact engagement and proactive outreach. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve The Grief Club community and help provide compassionate care for grieving children, teens, young adults and their families as they move forward with a life of hope, strength, resilience and healing after the death of a loved one. I truly wish this organization existed ten years ago when my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving me and my children without much community support to turn to. Everyone deserves to know they are not alone after experiencing the death of someone close to them and there is a caring place for them when they need it most.”

I hold a B.A. in Public Relations from the University of Minnesota and earned a Certificate in Achievement from both the Public Affairs Policy Fellows Program at the U of M’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs and the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, New Strategies Program.

Allison Chant, MS, LMFTGrief Counselor
Allison Chant
MS, LMFTGrief Counselor

As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for the past 25 years I have experience working with individuals, couples and families in the areas of grief, end of life care including palliative care and hospice. I have facilitated many grief groups over the years including the death of a spouse, family nights for single parent/guardian and children grieving the death of a loved one, and have volunteered at many family grief retreats. I am trained in Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), a tool to support those who’ve experienced trauma. ART is a way to address the trauma, opening up possibilities of grieving and healing.

I view grief as a normal response to a death and support finding meaning and purpose in the midst of transition, sadness and grief. The support of a trained listener helps as you seek to make meaning of changes and return to preferred ways of functioning or optimally, finding new ways of seeing life and living fully.

Being a part of The Grief Club of Minnesota is an honor to me. It is a humbling experience to walk alongside kids, teens and families as they navigate a death and learn new ways of being in the world while remembering their loved one and engaging in the present.

Emily Brocato, MA, LMFTGrief Counselor
Emily Brocato
MA, LMFTGrief Counselor

My history as a high school teacher, a yoga instructor, training in crisis care and working in leadership in multi ethnic settings has guided me to the meaningful work that is at The Grief Club.

I believe grief is a natural response to death, and I consider it a privilege to journey with children, teens, and families as they sort through the complex layers of loss. I have a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, I am particularly passionate about childhood bereavement and helping families navigate developmental responses to grief. I am deeply grateful to be a part of The Grief Club, a place where families can receive support and pursue healing together.

Pat Ahrens, LICSWGrief Counselor
Pat Ahrens
LICSWGrief Counselor

I have a Master’s in Social Work, and hold a license as an independent clinical social worker. Throughout my employment as a social worker and a psychotherapist, one of my most cherished areas of interest was in helping clients process their symptoms of grief and loss in a healthy way.  I have worked over 27 years in health care and mental health in private practice and hospital settings.  My husband and I have 5 adult children and 7 grandchildren.  My interests include spending time at our lake home, playing pickleball, spending time with family and friends, and going on walks.  I am honored to be a part of The Grief Club of Minnesota, because it is such an important and much needed program in Minnesota.

Lindsay Butzer,  MS, LSC, LPC-SupervisedGrief Counselor
Lindsay Butzer
 MS, LSC, LPC-SupervisedGrief Counselor

With 15 years of dedicated experience as a school counselor and a master’s degree in counseling, my journey led me to the deeply fulfilling role at The Grief Club of Minnesota. In my years as a school counselor, I supported teachers, caregivers and counseled grieving children as well as collaborated with community programs to bring needed grief resources into the schools. My passion for supporting grieving children also stems from my personal experience as a child when my mother died. Now it is an honor to contribute to the invaluable services offered by The Grief Club of Minnesota, assisting children, teens, and families as they navigate their unique paths toward healing and hope.

At The Grief Club of Minnesota, I serve as an empathic listener, providing unwavering support to individuals navigating the complexities of grief. By incorporating mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral, and solution-focused approaches, I hope to empower each person and family to make meaning of their grief and discover healthy avenues for healing.

In my free time I enjoy spending quality time with my husband, two children and our dog, cooking, mountain biking, yoga, and anything in nature. I am grateful to contribute to an organization that provides such meaningful grief support and offers a center for connection.