Imagine a Better Life for Kody
"¢ Imagine the gentle child you raised becoming unpredictably violent to himself and others
"¢ Imagine your child refusing to come home and choosing to sleep on the streets. And, not knowing where they are or where their next meal is coming from
"¢ Imagine desperately seeking every available type of help. And, then reading a therapist's assessment that your child had been severely traumatized
"¢ Imagine the pain you'd feel learning that they had suffered in silence for years and wondering what else you could have done
"¢ Finally, imagine getting a call from a friend saying that your child allegedly committed a crime and had been arrested
"¢ Imagine the gut-wrenching suffering your family would negotiate feeling that maybe being in jail was the safest place for your child and your community
I don't have to imagine these things anymore. Now my family has lived through these pains.
Like many families in the U.S. we suffer from wounds that are not visible to others. When our son Kody was young he experienced unimaginable trauma that he did not share with us. As he grew older he began to demonstrate unpredictable anger and rage. He was out of control. We tried therapists, medications and even short-term residential care. We tried everything we knew to get him the help he needed, but we quickly ran out of options. As a middle class family, many programs were more expensive than we could afford and our earnings made us ineligible for public assistance. With your help Kody can begin to receive the treatment that he so desperately needs.
"¢ Imagine a future for Kody where he has received the treatment he needs and has avoided being sent to prison.
"¢ Imagine a future for Kody where he contributes to his community instead of being a liability to it.
"¢ Finally, imagine a future for Kody where he is empowered to negotiate his mental and behavioral challenges in appropriate ways that are not harmful to him or others.
Your generosity can help make this possible.
If you would like more information, please feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
UPDATE: July 9, 2013:
Another goal of this site is to help raise awareness about the experiences of families negotiating raising a child with mental/behavioral challenges. Often these children, like Kody, have suffered trauma during the critical early development years. In Kody's case, two highly-respected mental health professionals have said that at this point the best (and really, only) way of treating his issues and helping him achieve success is through long-term (a minimum of two years) residential care.
I continue to envision those wonderful glimpses of charm, generosity and kindness that surface above the inner turmoil that Kody most undoubtedly suffers. My hope and prayers rest in whatever goodness I have nurtured in his upbringing "“ despite tremendous hardship "“ will help him conquer his understandably dark impulses and be able to heal and re-discover himself through residential treatment that he so desperately needs.
I have researched and met with representatives of several residential care facilities and learned that residential treatment can cost up to $100,000+ annually. Kody is not eligible for Medicaid and other programs, so our family is trying to minimize our costs and adjust our budgets to save as much as possible. We are willing to make these sacrifices to help Kody. Your contributions are making it possible for Kody to go directly into treatment and be released from the Juvenile Detention Center. We have a long road ahead of us.
There are no words to express my appreciation for all your prayers and support.
UPDATE: Launch of New Campaign for Kody July 19, 2013
"A Few Dollars Can Make A BIG Difference" -Kickin' It Up a Notch for Kody-
It is so common for individuals to think that in order to make a difference, you have to do something really big. Our souls know that the greatest way to make the biggest impact is actually in very simple terms. We make a difference when we see through eyes of love rather than through eyes of judgment. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a firm believer in the fact that it is the little things in life that truly matter. Because when you look back, they are actually the big things that really mattered the most.
I have come to the realization that this is a marathon; not a sprint. "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others." Little by little and one by one, we will get there. Thank you so very much for your consideration in participating in this campaign for Kody.
Below, you will see where I have provided some examples on why you may have decided to invest in this campaign for Kody. Feel free to add your own; I am looking forward to reading all of your comments!
I will kick this off this by making my own personal contribution of $5.00. Together, we can make a difference. Your turn:Go!
$5.00 ___ I believe in Kody $5.00 ___ I believe that Mental Health Issues are important
$5.00 ___ I once taught, cared for and/or mentored Kody.
$5.00 ___ I want Kody to know how much I care
$5.00 ___ I care about the future of our youth.
$5.00 ___ I believe that change is possible
$5.00 ___ I believe this will aid in efforts to lower our violence and prison rates
$5.00 ___ I believe in and admire the passion and dedication it requires for something like this to be successful
$5.00 ___ I have struggled with my own child
$5.00 ___ I believe in awareness and change
$5.00 ___ I believe in helping others and paying it forward
$5.00 ___ I believe individuals, children, & families should not have to suffer in silence
$5.00 ___ I want to make an impact on another person's life
$5.00 ___ I believe in the duty we have as parents to fight and advocate for our children
$5.00 ___ I care about the safety of our community, our kids and those around me
$5.00 ___ I do not want to see another tragedy occur before it is too late
$5.00 ___ I share a similar story
$5.00 ___ I have a family member or friend who suffers from mental illness and/or behavioral issues
$5.00 ___ I, myself, suffer from mental illness
$5.00 ___ I personally know someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, trauma, and/or ___________.
$5.00 ___ I want to do my part to help avoid a suicide of another human life.
$5.00 ___ I do not believe our community invests enough into our mental healthcare system
$5.00 ___ I, myself, have been through a traumatic event
$5.00 ___ I have suffered or survived a crisis
$5.00 ___ I want to support those who live with disabilities
$5.00 ___ I simply just wanted to give
$5.00 ___ Because I do not want to be the only one who doesn't give a buck (or five)! ;)
$5.00 ___ Other (please specify):_______________________
**I would like more information on how I can get help for myself, a family member or friend. This will be strictly personal and confidential. You are not alone.
I can be reached through the gofundme website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.**
"Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond..." "• Jessy and Bryan Matteo
To give you an idea of the impact your contributions will make, when combined with others, I have put together a couple of real-life scenarios:
"¢ If 50 people were to invest $5, that would be enough to cover extensive therapeutic treatment for Kody in a residential facility for one entire day (24 hours of around-the-clock care).
"¢ If 100 people were to invest $5, that would be enough to cover two days (48 hours of around-the-clock care) of extensive therapeutic treatment for Kody in a residential facility.
Thank you for your help in finishing up the first steps to Kody's brighter future!
With Love and Admiration,
During Kody’s residential counseling we’ve had good and bad times. At times, he’s shown tremendous growth and maturity. During others, he’s demonstrated behaviors reminiscent of those that resulted in his institutionalization. Your support and prayers have helped all of us as we’ve negotiated these issues.
Kody is now 19 and a high school graduate. We have reached a point where I have to step back and let Kody start making more decisions about his future. He now has to choose between continuing with a transitional program that helps individuals “step down” from institutional life to living on their own, or choosing to return to Champaign without participating in one of these programs. I have strongly recommended to him that he participate in a transitional living program.
Kody is now realizing that he is in control of his own behavior and life. It is a scary thing, but I can no longer make the decisions for him. He has made it clear that he considers himself an adult. He has officially completed the treatment program at Devereux and it will soon be time for his release.
With the help of some amazing individuals, we continue to work tirelessly to find a program that will benefit (and accept) Kody, but all of this takes time and, of course, money. With each day that goes by, I ask for more and more patience. These transitional living programs want to know upfront how you plan to pay before they will even consider placing your child. We are being as creative as possible and have faith that our efforts will prevail. Thankfully, Kody has decided to participate in a “step-down” program, but the clock is ticking. He will be released from Devereux in the coming weeks, and has to finalize plans for his future. We have recently identified a couple of transitional living programs we believe will be a great fit for Kody. We patiently wait to hear whether or not he will be accepted.
This continues to be an uphill battle for our family. Recognizing that Kody is an adult and has to be responsible for his own actions involves fears…but also hope that through this process he has better learned how to negotiate being an adult. Other than loving him unconditionally, there will be nothing more we can do legally or financially.
I have learned some valuable life lessons throughout this process that will forever impact who I am as a person. Since so many of you reach out to me, share your personal stories, ask for updates, pray for us…I wanted to share with you some of the most important lessons I have learned through reading, therapy sessions, and daily “mind wonderings" that continue to help me face challenges.
I began this journey expecting and hoping for a perfect ending, or at least a happy ending. I always feared in the back of my mind that there was a chance that this could all be for nothing. I now realize that it wasn't for nothing- the true reward doesn't always come right away when we expect it to. There may never be a happy ending, but I have great faith in what Kody can be and do.
Here are 10 additional lessons I’ve learned:
1. Every life has value.
2. If you don't get the lesson, you will repeat it in another form.
3. Extended and excruciating pain will render you unconscious.
4. There are five stages of grief. You don't graduate from one and move on to the next; sometimes you go back and forth. There is no time limit; everyone heals at their own pace.
5. If you're depleted, you've got nothing to give to those around you.
6. It's important to extend yourself to other people.
7. Everyone serves a purpose; it’s our job to pay attention.
8. It's very difficult to lead when it's not convenient. The dream has to be bigger than the fear.
9. When we recognize people’s experiences it gives us all power to walk in each others’ shoes.
10. I crashed down and I stumbled ... But I did not crumble.
I didn’t crumble because I knew I had all of you. Your kindness and generosity mean more than I can ever say. I want to specifically thank my youngest sister, Kate, and her family for driving to get Kody on so many weekends and every holiday. They sacrificed a lot so that he could be with family and be reminded through their actions that he is loved. I am forever grateful to them.
My office - the College of ACES Advancement Office - is my second family. My boss, Meg Cline, is unbelievably supportive and stood behind me 100% of the way without hesitation. My close friends, near and far, check in with me on a regular basis to make sure our family is ok. The College of ACES students, faculty, staff… and so many friends at the University of Illinois have been so gracious and supportive of us throughout this. I sincerely appreciate everyone. You have helped me find myself again and realize that I am not alone in this.
I continue to be amazed at the outpouring of support by so many of you. I find it hard to go anywhere without being asked about Kody. I ask that you keep Kody in your prayers as he begins the next step of his life. And, again, thank you.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life,
I would hope that I would not have a single
bit of talent left and could say,
I used everything you gave me.”
- Erma Bombeck
It is hard to believe that it was almost 10 months ago when I dropped Kody off at some place far away called "Devereux."
I am happy to be able to share with you that Kody was able to come home for a brief visit.
He was not able to stay long and he leaves tomorrow. He earned this visit as a reward for obtaining the leadership level at his residential treatment facility for over a month. He ended his school year with all A's and B's. He now leads the boys unit on his floor. He leads an addictions class. He is pleasant to the staff and he hasn’t been involved in any physical fights. We talk at least once per week for 15 minutes; and when we do, he is respectful. Way to put forth some effort, Kody; even if there is a prize at the end. We have to start somewhere before we can expect to get anywhere.
Kody still faces many challenges ahead. He continues to struggle with his self-worth, really understanding the trauma he went through, his aggressiveness during stressful situations and putting on a persona based upon who he is with. Maturity will most certainly help as he continues to learn about life and himself.
Good news is that he is down to two medicines compared to the 1.5 pages of medicine he arrived there with. He has now officially been diagnosed with a mood disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Also, as with any trauma, the chances of having an addiction shoot through the roof. We will continue to pray that Kody has the skill set and resources to overcome that set of challenges.
We are now at the point where Devereux is discussing his discharge plans. They feel they have done all they can do for him up to this point. He has just about completed his trauma treatment, which consisted of writing the story of his life from as far back as he can remember up until now. Within 2 days, he had written over 60 pages. He is now in the process of reading that out loud to his therapist and then he has to read it out loud to me. That is a lot harder to do than it may sound.
We are looking at what our potential options are in terms of transitioning Kody into the next chapter of his life…the real world. Professionals feel strongly that the transition process should be a step by step process... a transition prior to the transition where we just throw him back into society and expect him to know what to do and how to do it. We are looking for a group home (possibly in Marietta) that reinforces the need to get and keep a job (it’s a requirement, actually), finish his last year of high school, teach him how to budget, etc. So he would get far more freedom, but he will still have to abide by rules of an adult present at all times. These places also offer individual therapy services to help him when he needs it. Although our options seem very few and far between, we continue to research where this place will be. We've come this far, the next step is to continue to ensure and secure the best outcome for Kody's future. And pray.
I will continue to be mom but will be taking a step back to allow room for Kody to learn how to conquer his fears and struggles on his own. My wish for him is that he be an engaged, contributing member of society; not a liability. To be a good person; to not harm people with his words or actions, to show up and be present and be a loving person…all of the time. Sometimes it takes tragedy and crisis to learn these things.
Most of you who know me well, know that I have learned throughout all of this that when you're depleted, you've got nothing to give to anyone. I have now recharged my battery and we had an enjoyable time with Kody. Sometimes I found myself just staring at him when he was asleep and then, of course, making sure he was breathing by feeling his stomach! I had all of my kids together with me for the first time in over 3 years. What an extraordinary feeling that was. I know that there is something much bigger than myself that's got this under control and I firmly believe that there is a rainbow in every cloud.
Thanks to each and every one of you for always asking about Kody and how he’s doing. You have no idea how much that means to me and I will never forget all of the support I have received and continue to receive from all of you.
I will continue to keep you all posted on his progress.
Not All Wounds Are Visible. Be kind to others all of the time; you never know the depth of their struggles.
Stacey & the Coles (and LaBrecque's)
I hope this finds each and every one of you doing well and living life to its fullest.
I have been asked a lot about Kody and how he is doing. Thank you. I do have an update for you. Kody remains at the Devereux Treatment Facility in Kennesaw, Georgia. He is definitely where he needs to be for right now. He has been struggling emotionally quite a bit lately and continues to struggle with following rules and accepting responsibility for his actions. He continues to receive around-the-clock care and treatment for trauma. Academically, he is a super star; he goes to school every day and makes great grades. He has overcome a lot of challenges and I am very proud of him. I will continue to pray that God gives him the strength to endure; there is still a long road ahead of him. I made a tough decision not too long ago - one that did not allow Kody to come home for Spring Break. I did not feel he was ready and I had to be honest with myself - I am still not ready. Tough love is the hardest thing to follow through with. My instincts told me this was the right decision to make so I went with it. Trust your instincts.
I have to be honest with you all. What really inspired me to write this update is because of an act I so strongly and passionately believe in...now more than I ever have. Pay It Forward. Had it not been for all of you..each and every one of you, I am not sure I would have made it through such gut-wrenching hard times.
I am helping with a campaign for students in the College of ACES at the U of I. It is entitled: "I Pay It Forward: Students Helping Students Scholarship Campaign." This has been one heck of a rewarding experience for me personally. We launch on April 1 and run through the month of April. We have hundreds of students on board and it has given me hope and a place to feel like I am giving back to others because of all that each of you have done for me.
Please know that you all inspired me to assist in getting a campaign like this going as a way to show my appreciation for what was done for me and my family. Now it's my turn to help make a difference in the lives of others. I have done what I can for Kody; now it is time for me to spread the good by paying it forward. The prayers, time, personal messages, shoulders for my tears, commitment and money you all gave to help me, our family, and our son, Kody, is simply something that can not be repaid. However, it can be reinvested :) And that is exactly why I am sharing this with you. Please know that had it not been for all you, I would not be who I am now.
The College of ACES and the entire University of Illinois family stood (and continues to stand) by my side throughout this excruciating experience with Kody. However, my son is alive (and receiving professional treatment) and I am now healing because of the warmth and support I received from literally hundreds of people on this campus. My amazing boss, Meg Cline, and my ACES Advancement colleagues pushed me through and backed me 100%. And to this day, they continue to do that for me. Thank you, Meg, Kim Meenen, Jeremy Robinett, Paulette Sancken, Felix Madera, Angie Barnard, Marla Todd, Marise Robbins-Forbes, Toni McMullen, Carol Lindholm, Denise Dalton, Dot Gordon, Tina Hillard & Barry Dickerson. And thanks to the rest of my College of ACES and U of I family. I have truly enjoyed being a part of this family for over 15 years.
President and Mrs. Bob and Cheryl Easter - You will likely never know the IMPACT you have had on my life. Thanks for asking about Kody whenever you see me. President Easter- when we were in Chicago for the University's big Advancement Retreat - and you gave your speech at the end of our lunch, you made an impact on me that day that you likely are not even aware of. You came up to me (and, of course, waited for me to finish talking:) and I can tell you exactly what you said to me: "Hi Stacey, how is Kody?" It was really tough to hold back my tears. With all that you have going on as President, you went out of your way to ask ME how my son was doing. I have always admired and respected you, but it was then that I knew how big your heart was. Thank you; I am so blessed to know you and Cheryl. Thanks for inspiring me in so many ways.
Mom, Dad, Elyne, Terry, Terrilyne, Nikki and Kate: T.C., Kody, Jazzmine, Tre and I could not ask for a more amazing family. Thanks for helping us as we continue to work through our grief.
Thanks to each and every one of you who are reading this, from the very bottom of my heart and soul, for caring so much that you put me and my family in front of yours in whatever way you did. I will NEVER forget this.
It is now my turn to show my appreciation for all of you...
Tomorrow, April 1, the U of I's College of ACES Student Advancement Committee (SAC) will officially launch our "I Pay It Forward: Students Helping Students Scholarship Campaign" to the rest of our ACES family. We hope to inspire a culture of philanthropy that expects and inspires giving; where we help others by coming together to be an asset to our community, our college, & our university by ensuring that others who have worked so hard to be at our land-grant university have that same opportunity and access to this world-class institution. As a result of your influence, you create a legacy and impact that ripples forward. Congratulations, in advance, for becoming stakeholders in the future success of your university and for allowing the college and university to be a stakeholder in yours. The payoff for you will be significant.
Kody, thanks for being my personal inspiration behind paying it forward. This one's for you, bud. I hope it makes you proud. Love, Mom.
Today is a very special day. One that brought me all the way down to Georgia (and saved me from all the terrible weather Illinois is now having!) 18 years ago today, I gave birth to a sweet baby boy with a head full of white hair and sparkling blue eyes. The nurse at Carle told my mom and I that he had been "kissed by an angel."
I am happy to be spending quality time with Kody and he is more than excited to be spending this special day with his mommy. :)
The past 18 years have been challenging and amazing at the same time. As a 19 year old single parent with a newborn, how could it not be?
Kody and I have been doing a lot of reflecting today; many laughs have take place. Hard times have come up too and we have talked at length about his ability to break the cycle and live a long, healthy and productive life. He has an opportunity of a lifetime here in Georgia and I am so impressed at his willingness to make the most of his situation.
Not all wounds are visible - mental illness is very much real. Depression is real..as is anxiety...domestic violence....childhood abuse and trauma...lack of positive role models....and the list goes on and on. Instead of turning the other cheek, Kody and I chose to face this head on as if there was no other way. Our entire family has suffered immensely through times of trials and tribulations...our friends have watched us spiral downhill emotionally as we faced all of these unexpected, life-changing and dreaded circumstances. Tough decisions had to be made because we believe that not only is Kody worth it, but everyone is deserving of second chances and a shot at a good life regardless of any judgments placed upon them.
Life holds no guarantees for any of us. God decided that I was the one who deserved to have Kody and that I could handle any and all things that came our way. The positive memories far outweigh all we have overcome together.
Happy 18th birthday, Kody! Thanks for the wonderful, silly, and hilarious memories that I will hold close to my heart forever. I look forward to the next 18 years and watching you mature and grow into a responsible, productive and happy young man. We realize this is a lifelong journey; it does not end once Kody turns 18 or released from treatment. But we are in it for the long haul.
I look forward to keeping you updated on Kody's progress. If you are facing a similar situation, please know that you are not alone. BUT be nice to everyone as you never know what they are dealing with on the inside. Thanks to all of you for helping us get to where we are. We simply could not do this without your friendship and support.
Happy Birthday, bud!
"Mom" & the LaBrecque and Cole families
Kody, Hang in there kiddo. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. For all of us, not only you, we take a one step then another and so forth and so on every day. If you believe in that man that your mother sees and that you know you are; things will get better day by day. I look forward to meeting you someday. Best, Jack