KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — When a child is grieving, he or she may not know how to express that grief or know who or where to turn to. Fortunately, there is a place specializing in adolescent grief.
Ryan’s Place, based in Elkhart County, has been offering grief support groups for individuals since opening in 2002. Since that time, Ryan’s Place has served more than 8,000 individuals and now serves more than 700 people each year.
The organization provides ongoing peer support groups for children and teens, ages 3 to 18, and their family members. Children who are suffering grief from the loss of a parent, other family members or close friends may participate in the support groups.
Ryan’s Place has expanded and also offers grief support groups in Kosciusko County. The first support group started at Leesburg Elementary School and then Milford Elementary-Middle School five years ago and has since grown. “There was a definitely a demand for it,” said Laurenne Hamlin, program director.
Each semester, the grief support programs are held in the following school corporations: Tippecanoe Valley Schools, Warsaw Community Schools and Wawasee Community Schools.
Ryan’s Place offers peer-to-peer support groups during and after school. In 2017, there were 10 school-based programs in eight schools in Kosciusko County and 93 children and 13 adults were served with grief support.
“We have always served individual families from Kosciusko County, but at our center in Goshen, with grief support groups for children and adults and individual counseling,” said Aileac Deegan, president and CEO of Ryan’s Place. “We found that the distance to Goshen was prohibitive for many families to travel. We had started doing school groups in Elkhart County and when we sent out information about the groups to school social workers in Kosciusko County schools, we received requests for services.”
Support groups in Kosciusko County are held at the Baker Youth Club, Warsaw, and in first through 12th grades in several Kosciusko County schools. All programs are provided at no cost.
The support groups are led by 17 facilitators, 37 volunteers and one of 10 college interns. The facilitators receive 30 hours of training. The groups are kept small and are age appropriate.
“We serve six to eight kids in a group,” Hamlin said.
Christine Cracknell of Claypool is a Kosciusko County volunteer and a group facilitator. She has been a volunteer for Ryan’s Place for the past six years. She said the support groups consist of children, who are the same age, needing a welcoming environment.
“They have a safe place to express how they feel with their peers,” Cracknell said.
The programs are funded through donations, grants and events.
“We have received grants from K-21 Health Foundation, Kosciusko County Community Foundation, and we are currently working on matching a grant from the Dekko Foundation. The grant for Dekko is $8,000, and we need to match that $8,000 with donations or gifts from within Kosciusko County. There is no charge to clients for any of our programs and schools don’t pay for the services.”
Ryan’s Place, a non-profit agency, also offers one-on-one counseling, too.
The need continues to grow. More volunteers and facilitators are needed in Kosciusko County.
For more information, visit www.ryansplace.org, call (574) 535-1000, or talk to a guidance counselor at a student’s school.