SHIPPENSBURG — When the Taylor family lost 3-year-old Drew in a car crash in 2006, they searched for a support group for their 6-year-old daughter, but were unable to find one in their area.
In 2008, Marcie and Randy Taylor began the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation, an organization that provides educational opportunities and grief and loss support programs for children, teens and their families, Marcie said. Drew’s Hope is a flagship program consisting of a seven-session free support program through Shippensburg University.
“The program’s really a win-win, because our community is getting a free, local resource, which our foundation funds, but (also) the graduate-level counseling students at Ship University are getting first-hand experience working with grief and loss,” Marcie said. “We’re looking to expand the program starting in the fall to the Greencastle school district, so that western Franklin into Washington County, Maryland, will have a grief support group because there are just not a lot of options when you have a grieving child.”
Randy was teaching social studies and coaching basketball and Marcie was teaching Spanish at the time of the crash. Both quit soon after and worked to move through their own grieving processes. Randy said while everyone has a different way to go about grieving, they needed to figure out a way that their son could help other people.
“We were motivated by our grief to find a way to have Drew help others,” Randy said. “At the time, we lacked a clear vision, but we were motivated to try to figure out a way to have him help others. ... It took a little while, but the goals and the objective of the foundation are now clear.”
Marcie is in charge of the day-to-day functions of the foundation, helping to run support groups and facilitate discussions. Randy, who now works in financial services, works behind the scenes of the foundation, helping with tasks such as taxes and fundraising.
In 2012, Marcie went back to school to receive her certification in thanatology at Hood College in Frederick, Md. Thanatology is the study of death and dying and of the psychological mechanisms of dealing with them. Marcie said the certification has helped her understand the issues even further.
The foundation is also a part of the National Alliance for Grieving Children, and Marcie attends a yearly meeting to learn about what other groups are doing to help bring awareness to the issue. She said the alliance has been helpful to get good ideas for how to help people more.
“I joke with people that these groups that I run are my ongoing therapy, but you know, they really are,” she said. “I think, you know, if you’re not grieving yourself, you don’t always pay attention to what’s out there. But I think, to learn how to help grieving people, what to say and what not to say to the griever, those types of things are so important that the more we can spread awareness and education, the better off everybody will be.”
Marcie said when they got out of the hospital, the family received so much support from people weeding her flowers and planting her vegetable gardens to people building a wheelchair ramp at the front of their house.
“We are very blessed,” she said. “We just had a lot of support, and we know that there are a lot of families that don’t have that support. ... We wish there were no grieving families to help, but we know there are lots of them.”
Randy said he will speak at a church in the future, and in preparation for that talk, he was looking at statistics about success rates versus arrest rates of people who have lost a parent. The information helped him to realize that it’s all about having the tools to get the support a person needs to deal with a death.
“When something bad happens to you as a child, it’s sort of like one of two things happens — either that horrible thing helps you to become successful and you use that tragedy to become successful and help others, or it takes you down a different path,” he said. “We can’t fix it, but what we try to do is help people become equipped to deal with a terrible situation, so the terrible situation doesn’t become worse.”
People who are interested in being a part of the next support group can call the foundation at 532-8922 or visit the website at www.drewmichaeltaylor.org to find out more information.
Email Samantha Madison at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @SentinelMadison