ELKHART -- At Ryan's Place, the business of emotional well-being is progressing at a healthy pace.
The organization is in its ninth year of providing free counseling services to children and teenagers who have experienced the death of someone close to them. Two locations -- First Congregational Church on Third Street in Elkhart and Goshen City Church of the Brethren on North Fifth Street in Goshen -- make Ryan's Place accessible to clients at both ends of the county. Increasingly, adults have also begun to fit into the center's programming.
In Goshen, participation rose enough in 2010 to prompt the addition of a second group oriented to the grief of first- through third-graders. The number of schools at which counselors provide services and initiated private counseling for individuals not yet ready to go into a support group setting is on the rise as well, according to Director Aileac Deegan. Twenty people are enrolled in the new private counseling program, and attendance has also picked up at a special Goshen group for adults with a family member who committed suicide.
Deegan attributes the traffic increase to the recession.
"People have less access to getting counseling because of the economy. They're looking elsewhere," she said.
A fundraising event Feb. 18 will support those initiatives and other programs. "Silhouettes of Hope" dinner and banquet begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Matterhorn Banquet and Conference Center, 2041 Cassopolis St., Elkhart. Jane Hoeppner, the wife of late Indiana University football coach Terry Hoeppner, is the evening's featured speaker. A silent auction will also take place.
Hoeppner will share stories from her life with "Coach" during the evening. Some of those anecdotes and messages are also in her recently published book "Never Ever Quit."
Since her husband's death from brain cancer in 2007 Hoeppner has spoken publicly about her and Terry's attitude of perseverance. She speaks candidly about dealing with the loss of a partner of 40 years and the drastic change in perspective that accompanied it. Meeting people who were touched by Coach's legacy inspires her to find the strength to share her message.
"When they see me, they see me more as a connection to him and all that he stood for. And even though most of them didn't meet him, they sensed the enthusiasm he had for IU," she said. "That's something I really enjoy seeing."
Deegan welcomes Hoeppner's willingness to share her experience and her sensitivity to the grieving process.
"It's a fact of life that people are going to die. We just thank God there's a place survivors can go to work through it," said Deegan. "She relates to what it's like to grieve. We're very lucky to have her coming."
The annual banquet is the biggest fundraiser for Ryan's Place. In 2009 it raised about $50,000 -- in 2010 a little less, Deegan said. That money is used to pay 11/2 staff members and program overhead. Most of the counselors work free of charge.
IF YOU GO
What: Silhouettes of Hope banquet, a fundraising event for Ryanâs Place
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Matterhorn Banquet and Conference Center, 2041 Cassopolis St., Elkhart
Tickets: $50 per person
Reservations: Call 535-1000