Forest Moon closes, but its work goes on

Support programs for those touched by cancer will be continued by other area nonprofits

BRATTLEBORO — Forest Moon of Brattleboro, a nonprofit organization providing therapeutic programs and workshops for cancer survivors and their families since 2004, announced its closure on July 22, citing an inability to keep up with funding demands.

Meanwhile, like-minded area nonprofits, such as the New England Center for Circus Arts (NECCA) of Brattleboro, and Cancer Connection ( of Northampton, Mass., have pledged to continue facilitating several of Forest Moon's programs with the help of former Forest Moon staff, volunteers, and partners.

Anne Wibiralske, president of the board of directors of Forest Moon, wrote on the organization's website that staffers were proud of the programs they've offered so many in the mainly rural areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Western Massachusetts.

“In 2012, Forest Moon and our partners conducted 23 individual programs over 94 program days, directly benefiting more than 200 individuals and their families. Through gallery exhibits, our fundraising events, regional survivors' days, and conferences, we brought Forest Moon's message of hope and transformation to thousands more,” Wibiralske wrote.

She said the organization is known for collaborating with, and receiving referrals from, medical centers and organizations throughout New England.

Wibiralske told The Commons that the downturn in charitable giving since the economic meltdown of 2008, and the continued sluggishness of the local economy, were factors in the organization's decision to close.

“We are hardly the first organization to go through this,” she said.

Wibiralske, who began working with Forest Moon in 2008 as a participant, was named to the board in June 2012, when the organization transitioned to having paid staff and a new office in Brattleboro.

Cindy and Phil Blood, the organization's co-founders, had hired three full-time staffers and appointed a board of volunteer directors with an eye toward growing as an organization.

The potential is exciting, Wibiralske said: “Forest Moon became very well established, with several very successful programs.” Unfortunately, she added, Forest Moon was not entirely successful in landing foundation and grant funding for mounting administrative and overhead expenses throughout its first year of expansion.

“Foundation funding is often very supportive of programming, but limited in terms of other costs. There are not [many] foundations that support what we do,” Wibiralske said.

She explained the staff and the board have spent time discussing how best to carry on Forest Moon's mission. The board “thought about it deeply,” considering “all sorts of ways to keep the doors open,” before making the decision to close, she said.

“We've been in the process of closing. It's a sad time. But I am very hopeful that the program continues,” she said.

Some programs continuing

Pam Roberts was program director and facilitator of several Forest Moon programs. She became a paid staff member in 2012.

As she explained, Forest Moon provides more than just physical therapy. The programs encourage community, and above all, fun for participants, taking care to include their friends, family, and wider support network.

Roberts said she will continue facilitating two programs: “Gentle Yoga for Women with Breast Cancer” and “Spirit of the Written Word,” which is on break for the summer.

Both programs are funded through Rays of Hope, the Baystate Health Foundation's breast cancer support and research organization, and the oncology department of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, Mass.

“I'm grateful that some of the programming can continue,” said Roberts. “Forest Moon changed lives through its programs, [which] fostered healing and transformation.”

Cancer Connection will be taking on “Festive Holiday Cooking,” a healthy cooking class taking place in November and “1 in 8: The Torso Project,” culminating in an art exhibit featuring survivors of breast cancer.

Cancer Connection will also be the chosen charity on Aug. 10 at the 35th Annual Bridge of Flowers 10K and 3K races ( in the village of Shelburne Falls, Mass., replacing Forest Moon.

“I am excited to celebrate their work and honor their mission,” Wibiralske said of Cancer Connection.

Elise Smith, artistic director and co-founder of the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, will be leading three “Circus for Survivors” workshops this fall.

“The classes are set up with a therapeutic quality - the focus is on learning to move and trust your body,” said Smith. She said the classes offer a combination of “completely new skills for any mobility level, and therapy from a circus perspective.”

Smith said she's seen “valuable collaboration” with Forest Moon's staff, allowing her to capitalize on their experience - and leverage her experience in working with people of mixed abilities at the Circus Center. She said she expects to expand NECCA's programming for cancer survivors.

“Gentle Yoga for Women with Breast Cancer” will be held on Sept. 4 and Oct. 30 at the YMCA in Greenfield. Both are eight-week classes starting at noon.

“Spirit of the Written Word,” a 10-week writing workshop, will have evening classes at Artspace Community Arts Center ( in Greenfield starting Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

“Circus for Cancer Survivors” workshops will take place at NECCA on Sept. 15, Oct. 19, and Nov. 16, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. One class will be open to cancer survivors as well as their family and friends.

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