BLAINE GOFF MEMORIAL ~ SERVING KIDS WITH MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS
Team Member: Dawn Slezak
Sarah Nelson-Miller wrote -
"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted"- Garrison Keillor
There are very few resources available for families who have children with a mental health diagnosis. Extracurricular activities that can support positive brain development and therapeutic recreation are too expensive for many families to afford. It is well known in the mental health community that keeping children socialized and in age appropriate activities is an important component to their overall mental hygiene.
Many families who have a child with a mental health diagnosis are stretched to their limit in every regard. They are often intermittently in crisis and desperately trying to do what is best for their family. They often don't have anyone who understands what they are going through, they experience a vast amount of judgment from those that don't get it and have their financial resources completely drained. Many formerly working parents have had to have one parent quit their job to take care of their kiddo with a mental health diagnosis. It takes a lot of work to advocate for your child, take them to much needed therapies, be available if something goes wrong at school and navigate crisis. Having money for these kids just to be able to BE KIDS can be a challenge. Yet we know therapeutic recreation leads to better outcomes for these kids, their families and society as a whole. Not just any sport or activity is good for a kiddo struggling with mental illness, but once they find that one thing...you can see it click. They are able to connect with something they can be proud of; their self-esteem is boosted, they feel a part of something bigger than themselves and can learn to utilize important coping strategies in a meaninful and fun way. The power of these experiences should not be underestimated.
I would like to provide parents an opportunity to apply for funding that would assist their child in reaching their full potential. This might include adventure outdoor camps, horseback riding, swimming, biking, pottery classes, kayaking lessons, rock climbing etc. Each grant application would be reviewed on a case by case basis with once per year eligibility. The long term goal would be to eventually start a nonprofit organization that would provide support and opportunity to children with mental health issues in a way that isn't currently being met in most communities.
Why is this called the Blaine Goff Memorial Fund? Blaine Goff is my father and he passed away in April 2014 from Stage IV cancer of an unknown origin. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in his early 30's when he was married with a one year old daughter (me). He was also poised to graduate with his bachelor's degree in English to be a teacher when he became sick. His family, his education and his career all failed as a result of his illness. He was essentially struck down in his prime and stripped of all opportunity that had been there previously. That said, he did a pretty exceptional job managing his major mental illness once he got a grip on the diagnosis.
My father credited physical activity as the main therapeutic intervention outside of medication that helped him to cope and survive. At the time he got sick he was running marathons, rock climbing and boxing. He was extremely active. His diagnosing doctors felt this level of activity was helpful for his prognosis. He wasn't able to keep up that pace, but did walk vigorously and faithfully 5 miles per day until he got cancer.
Additionally, my career has been in human services and social work. I have seen both personally and professionally families suffer due to a lack of resources for people with mental illness. There is nowhere to turn for many...I would like to change that. Due to my line of work I am well connected with organizations, schools and hospitals who serve these children. Getting the word out about this opportunity will be easy; sustaining the funding will be the hardest part.
As I have said before, but cannot impress upon enough, we know early intervention is the key to positive outcomes. In fact, my father also credited his positive childhood as another reason that he was able to live independently with relatively few hospitalizations. He found this core to be a critical piece of his wellness. So with that, this is where I begin the journey to honor my father while providing support and hope to children with mental illness.
* See my personal profile for more background on this effort and what I intend to do moving forward to serve children with mental illness. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Thanks for reading. *