Cheryl Jackson’s life has been about caring for others and so she never gave it much thought when she decided that Tampa Bay needed a way to care for grieving children. Some people are designed to see a need and fill it. Cheryl is one of those people. A social worker by trade and member of the Van Dyke Church in Lutz, she orchestrated the creation of the Suncoast Kid’s Place – patterned after the renowned Dougy Center in Portland. In two short but full years, the program has grown from serving 20 to serving 400 children and families who are dealing with the grief of losing a beloved family member.
“Grief touches the whole family. It’s hard to be open and cry when everyone is hurting, so our center gives children and adults a separate place to open up and grieve,” she says They offer peer support, play therapy and a safe place to cry.
Now under Cheryl’s passionate leadership, this one-of-a-kind program is now expanding by bringing a mobile unit to both University Community Center in Tampa and Bell Shoals Church in Brandon.
Her vision isn’t stopping there either. Cheryl is an active part of a suicide prevention task force that is planning youth presentations to discuss depression. She’s also created a new support group that starts September 15th at the Van Dyke Church. “Healing from Suicide Loss” will be the first and third Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
“There just weren’t any programs out there for adults who’ve lost a child, spouse or other family member to suicide.” So Cheryl made it happen.
The support group is free and so is the child care. In fact, all the services at Suncoast Kid’s Place are free to the community because it is a supported program by the members of Van Dyke Church and others within the community. Financial contributions, food donations and caring volunteers are always needed.
To learn more, go to SuncoastKidsPlace.org.