Local nonprofit celebrates 21 years of providing grief support for children
GOSHEN, Ind. --- Saturday marks 21 years to the day that Ryan’s Place in downtown Goshen has been fulfilling a need that most people wouldn’t think of until they face a harsh reality.
“It’s been a long time, but yet it seems like yesterday that we’ve started out and we’ve been growing all these years and serving people who are grieving the death of a loved one,” says President and CEO of Ryan’s Place, Aileac Deegan.
It began in 1992, after the sudden death of 20-year-old Ryan Gleim. His parents, Nancy and Rex Gleim, were able to find a support group for themselves to learn how to grieve the loss of their son, but they struggled to find the same for their other son, Ryan’s younger brother.
“After Ryan died, they went and got some help, they met with a counselor who also met with their son, but it just didn’t work for him, he needed to be with other kid,” Deegan says.
Ten years later, Ryan’s Place opened its doors with the mission to provide grief support to children, teens, and their families; but with an emphasis on children, who struggle the most when it comes to understanding death.
“For children, to actually realize they’re not the only person whose had a parent or a sibling or a grandparent die, that’s huge for them,” explains Deegan. “To accept that the person has died, and that they’re not coming back, because that’s hard sometimes children think it’s temporary.”
The volunteers and staff at Ryan’s Place work extensively throughout the Michiana community to support children struggling with a loss. They do this through school visits, specified support groups, and giving the kids an avenue to express their grief through a multitude of hands-on activities.
“We get children to write a letter to themselves from the person who died,” says Deegan. “Often times they’re really hard on themselves, and when they write this letter, they realize ‘my mom wouldn’t want me to feel like this, she wants you to know you’re not to blame.’”
Ryan’s Place is fully funded through the support and generosity of the community, which is why Deegan says they’ve been able to help nearly 18,000 children and their families over the last two decades.
“For 21 years we’ve been here, we’ve never been in a position to not be able to do what we’re doing,” says Deegan.
What they’re doing is providing critical support to children learning their ‘new normal’ after a loss.
“We’re not ever saying to anybody ‘you have to get over this’, you don’t get over having someone die, but how can we learn to love life again?”
Ryan’s Place is always looking for volunteers, they also have an internship program for students in Social Work and Psychology. If you want to learn more about those opportunities, or if you’d like to donate, or even if the services at Ryan’s Place would benefit you and your family, visit their website.