“GrandFamily Today” – The Fialon’s Story and Upcoming Retreat

The Fialon’s became a GrandFamily after a life-changing car accident involving their daughter. 

What is the GrandFamily?

Paul and Cathy Fialon, Ph.D. define a “Grandfamily” as a family unit where Grandparents or Relatives step up as a caregiver to raise or co-parent children. They provide unconditional love, support, encouragement, a safe space, values, new experiences, wisdom, values, and mentoring. GrandFamily Today is an intentional community for Grandparents raising their grandchildren. We welcome you to a place to find resources and support.

In the fall of 2018, Paul and Cathy Fialon, Ph.D. had settled into a relaxing routine, enjoying an almost empty nest. With only two high schoolers left at home, they debated if they should get a dog.

“The pro was the benefits of a companion to enjoy the outdoors while keeping us on our toes,” Cathy said. “The con was how a dog would limit our newfound ability to be spontaneous.” 

After enjoying a wonderful week in the Bahamas, it seemed more unlikely a dog was in their future. However, as winter settled into a couch potato routine, Cathy convinced Paul a dog was a good idea. They rescued “Sir Duncan” from the Cherryland Humane Society. He was the last of the infamous royal court from a hoarding situation to find a forever home. 

“Our quiet life was gone, but little did I know what was still ahead in our lives.” 

-Cathy Fialon

Just two weeks after adopting Sir Duncan, their daughter was a passenger in a car accident. She suffered traumatic injuries requiring months of healing, so their three-year-old grandson came to live with them. 

Their lives changed forever. They became a GrandFamily

With an energetic three-year-old human and an active two and half-year-old dog, their house went from a quiet, empty nest to a race track. “At first, I resorted to having them run from one side of the house to the other,” Cathy added. “It was a comical sight!”

Together they learned there are smiles, challenges, and gifts in being a GrandFamily. However, there was one unexpected challenge. 

“Being a Grand Family was very, socially, and isolating,” said Cathy. “Our empty nest social circle didn’t accommodate a toddler.”

Reaching out of their isolation, they created GrandFamily Today with the simple mission:

Bring GrandFamily caregivers out of isolation and into a community offering social opportunities, learning opportunities, peer support, and fun building resilience in their GrandFamily children.

According to a recent article by Michigan Health Watch, there are approximately 120,000 Michiganders raising grandchildren today. 

How can you help? 

If you know a GrandFamily living in Michigan or beyond, please send them to www.grandfamilytoday.org. Cathy and Paul are seeking to impact any family located anywhere with (Cathy and Paul want to provide) social support, access to resources, and access to free, online self-care events. Membership to Grand Family Today is FREE. It is a work in progress as they both work full-time outside of this passion project. 

“Connecting Grand Families is our passion and our mission.

Upcoming Retreat

Regardless of your location, GrandFamily would like to invite you to attend an in-person event in Northern Michigan. Along with a Traverse City-based non-profit, GOREC, they are hosting a GrandFamily Retreat weekend, April 13-15, 2020. It will be a weekend filled with socializing, self-care/couple-care support, outdoor recreation fun and learning, and overnight stays in their comfortable four-season cabins.

“Our hope is with some local support from area business the weekend can be free for all GrandFamilies attending,” adds Cathy. 

To register for the weekend or to offer financial support for the weekend email GrandFamily Today contact@grandfamilytoday.org 

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