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Mother Arlene Meara Makes it Her Mission to Fight Dating Violence

Meara started foundation in her daughter Shannon's memory; fundraiser is Saturday. 'Doing this keeps her with me and keeps me alive,' said Meara.

“My daughter, my heart.”

Arlene Meara wears a heart-shaped silver pendant on a chain around her neck. On the front: a picture of her daughter, Shannon Lee. On the back: the words, “My daughter, my heart.”

Pictures of Shannon cascade down one side of Arlene’s fridge. One is of Shannon and Arlene, captioned, by Shannon, “My beautiful mother n me.”

Three years ago, Arlene’s daughter was “shot in the head with a 350 magnum by an ex-boyfriend,” Arlene recounted. Shannon was 24 when she died.

Now Arlene has made it her mission to raise awareness about dating and domestic violence and help prevent it.

In the wake of her daughter’s death, Arlene founded the Shannon Lee Meara Educational Foundation.

The organization is funding a series of projects:

  • a special program at the high school, Shannon’s alma mater, to promote healthy dating relationships:
  • a support group for girls there;
  • a on how to recognize dating violence and abuse, talk about it and where to get help; and
  • a scholarship for a student who has made a difference in her or his life or the life of someone else in connection with dating violence.

The foundation also funded a protective suit for the police Rape Aggression Defense program.

"(Shannon) loved to help people,” Arlene said. “I wanted to keep her spirit alive.”

“Doing this keeps her with me and keeps me alive,” the mother added.

This coming Saturday night, the foundation will hold its in Shannon’s memory.

After Shannon died, Arlene, an operating room nurse at Mass General Hospital, made some phone calls to see where she could pour her energy.

"I knew we had to do something to stop this,” Arlene said. “Together we will make a difference.”

She hopes to break the silence and “take away the stigma” around the subject of dating and domestic violence. People need to talk about these things, she said firmly.

Arlene approached the high school principal. She did research, found an organization that offered programs for students. 

Through Jane Doe, Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence, Arlene found the REACH Beyond Domestic Violence group.

REACH stands for refuge, education, advocacy and change, youth education specialist Colleen Armstrong explained Monday at the high school. REACH also offers shelter and advocates in court and certain police departments, she said.

This is the second year REACH has offered classes in high school students’ health classes and child development classes, twice a school year, courtesy of Shannon’s foundation. REACH offers a program in schools in Burlington and Stoneham, according to Armstrong. The program aims to empower, not blame, she said.

The program reaches more than 500 Woburn Memorial High School students each school year, according to high school adjustment counselor Loren Baccari. She coordinates the Dating Violence Task Team that was formed at the high school in 2009. The group includes six members of the high school wellness department, eight student peer leaders and Woburn Memorial High School Resource Officer .

Last month, REACH began a six-week support group for high school girls. Next year, that group will meet for between 12 and 14 weeks, Baccari said Monday.

REACH also held training sessions for all high school staff and counseling staff, Baccari noted, and peer leaders.

Even before the programs started at the high school, Arlene held a special run in her daughter’s memory. Arlene rides a motorcycle, a Harley Davidson. That had embarrassed her daughter, she recalled.

“She was very strict with me,” Arlene said.

Nevertheless, members of Mass. Moose on Bikes held its first annual run, in June 2008, to help the foundation raise money to help stop dating and domestic violence. Arlene wears a purple ribbon decal with her daughter’s name on it on her helmet when she rides. This coming June 4, the bikers will hold their fourth run in Shannon’s memory.

will include food, music and raffles. Tickets are $20 each. For more information, contact Arlene at evans1775@hotmail.com or Jennifer at jle110680@hotmail.com. Checks may be made out to the foundation and mailed to P.O. Box 136, Woburn, MA, 01801.

Arlene’s house is full of items for the fundraiser:  baskets of raffle items, tablecloths in pink—light pink was Shannon’s favorite color—and purple, the color of anti-dating and domestic violence efforts, Arlene said.

In her kitchen, Arlene pointed to hummingbirds—Shannon loved to buy hummingbird feeders, her mother said—that people have given her since Shannon died.  A hummingbird is a sign of peace, Arlene explained, a symbol to “embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of every day.” Shannon had one tattooed on her back, according to her mother. It has become the foundation’s symbol.

“Anything that reminds me of her is good,” Arlene said.

Sitting at her kitchen table Friday afternoon, Arlene recounted how, after work on a Friday afternoon in January of 2008, she tried to call Shannon and failed to reach her. She went to Shannon’s ex-boyfriend’s apartment, she said. Shannon’s car was there. Arlene said she called the police. By the time they arrived, Arlene said, the apartment was dark.

She went online and tracked Shannon’s cell phone calls. She wasn’t using her phone, Arlene said. That was very unusual.

By Sunday, still unable to reach her daughter, Arlene said she was “a wreck.”  Then the police called her, she said, and asked if Shannon had a tattoo. To Arlene, that meant that Shannon probably was not at a hospital.

“I fell on the floor, fell apart,” Arlene said. “I screamed, ‘No!  No!' (then) I shut down.”

Listening to the graphic descriptions of what happened to Shannon in court was “unbelievable,” she said.

And Shannon is gone.

“No family,” Arlene concluded, ”should ever have to go through this.” 

Woburn High School Health Class April 04, 2011 at 01:12 PM
From Karoline, I agree with Smiles that it is essential to be made aware of dating violence abuse.
tyler April 04, 2011 at 01:36 PM
From Tyler Brinkley, Hi Colleen, Its Tyler I really wanted to watch the rest of the movie...... IT WAS GREAT
Matt Riccardi April 04, 2011 at 01:41 PM
From Matt Riccardi and Christian Cesvette Hi Colleen , its Matt and Christian! It was great to see you last week. The whole movie...well half the movie was pretty impacting and while you had the comentary! We didnt get to finish the whole movie because you had to leave :( I think when you come back to visit tomorrow we should watch the movie after you give us our prizes for writting this on the wall , we should finish the rest of the movie about the abusive relationship between the chica and the guy. From: WMHS Mr.Carbones Class
nick April 04, 2011 at 01:42 PM
hi colleen its nick from mr carbones class. see you tomorrow..
cassie magro April 04, 2011 at 01:46 PM
hi colleen its cassie and liv from mr. carbones health class...um i think we should finish the movie soo see you tommorow
michael foley April 04, 2011 at 01:48 PM
Hey colleen its mike foley from mr. carbones health class!!!!! i found the video very fact filled. the article was also very informational. hope to see you tomorrow!!!!!!!!
Meghan Quinn April 04, 2011 at 01:51 PM
hi colleen it's jazmyne and meghan from mr. carbone's health class the movie was very effective and informative as was the article. see you tomorrow! ( :
jessica April 04, 2011 at 01:52 PM
hi colleen it jessica from wmhs, good info
rachel & elyce April 04, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Rachel & Elyce WMHS- thanks for coming to our class! we learned alot
Teagny April 04, 2011 at 01:57 PM
Hi colleen, Its teagny from woburn memorial high school. i loved the movie and you gave great information!
Megan April 04, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Hi Colleen, its mean from mr. carbone's class at WMHS. thanks for showing us how dangerous dating can sometimes be. see you tomorrow.
amanda and kayla April 04, 2011 at 02:07 PM
from Kayla & amanda - WMHS Hi Colleen, The work you do is very inspiratinal
David Soares April 04, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Whats going on Colleen. Its David Soares and Adam Gately from Mr Carbones health class at WHMS. The article was sad, we cant believe that happened. Hope it doesnt happen again. See you tommorw.
Vincent Vu April 04, 2011 at 02:22 PM
This is Vincent Vu from WMHS. The article was extremely informative and my heart goes out to Shannon's mother.
TJ Pecina April 04, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Hey Colleen, I thought this was a very good article and it shows that dating violence can happen to everyone. Keep up the good work. -WMHS TJ
Sal LoCoco April 04, 2011 at 02:25 PM
Hi Colleen, this is Sal (the boyfriend that crushed your dreams about the Bruins) but just want you to know that you're doing a great job with everything. Very inspirational. See you tomorrow!!
Billy Hammond April 04, 2011 at 02:29 PM
Your doing a great job spreading the message! Billy WMHS
Brandon April 04, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Brandon Daughtrey from WMHS Your doing a very important deed to spread these facts. Good Job
Andrea April 04, 2011 at 02:53 PM
From Andrea at WMHS This is worth fighting for we must remain strong. Good job!!
Jessica April 04, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Thank you for all of your hard work. It's really inspiring. Jessica from WMHS
skoog April 04, 2011 at 04:34 PM
its crazy. i think its good to inform people about this issue.
Briana April 04, 2011 at 04:38 PM
That was both Scary and Shocking
Steve April 04, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Your doing a great job helping others
Danielle Masterson (Editor) April 04, 2011 at 05:20 PM
Hello WMHS health students! :) So good to see so many of you on here. Please remember when submitting comments, we do ask that you use a real name (and not an alias) and refrain from using profanity. Sounds like you are doing some great things in your health class and I'm glad you found this article informative! :)
samantha white April 04, 2011 at 05:24 PM
Good job colleen and this was sad ):
abigail st.vil April 04, 2011 at 05:32 PM
hii this is abbey from mr.carbons class 7th periode.. i really liked your class and im happy your comming back! :) you really taught me a lot about abuse n how to prevent it thank youh!
jasmine P April 04, 2011 at 05:39 PM
this is jasmine from WHMS n i would like to say that iam happy tht your teaching us these things cause i would want to knoe wat to do if i were in tht type of situation so thank you for taking ur time n teaching us thanxs :)
Christian April 04, 2011 at 05:41 PM
From: Christian H. WMHS Mr.Carbone's 7th period class. I thought this was a very disturbing article, and i feel horrible for what happened to her and i cant even imagine how her family will get through this everyday.
Tiara Gonzalez April 04, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Heey there Colleen this is Tiara from Mr.carbone's 7th period class, well just letting you know that i am very exicted about the fact that you will be attending to our class once again tomorrow, i really enjoy listening to your advices and your experiences i feel like we as students can learn & benefit alot from these lessons, as to myself i personally feel like i can be aware of many more things when it comes to being involved in a relationship . . So thank youu very much for your dedication to us & im looking forward to seeing you tomorrow :)!
Caterina Gentile April 06, 2011 at 07:18 PM
Hey this is Caterina from Mr.Carbone's 7th period health class and I apreciate and respect what you do and it's an awful thing what happened to this girl im glad you raise awareness about these issues.

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