Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Celebrating Rick's House of Hope

   On Saturday, February 4th, nine members of the Reinbeck United Methodist Church travelled to Davenport, Iowa for a Mission/Work Day at Rick’s House of Hope-Center for Grieving and Traumatized Children.  The mission of RHOH is to make sure the needs of grieving and traumatized youth are not overlooked.  This mission is very dear to my heart.  You see, in 1999 when RHOH was founded it was the culmination of a dream and vision I had carried in my heart for over a decade.  Rick’s House of Hope was my creation and I served as Founding Director for seven years.  

   Rick’s House of Hope began as a seed of an idea when our son was born with a serious, congenital heart defect.  As we struggled through the earliest days of Richie’s life wondering just what the future would really hold I was keenly aware of how devastated I would be if my baby did not survive.  I could not imagine how I would ever help our daughter, then just three years old, with that kind of loss.  I began to think “there out to be a place” where children suffering the loss of a parent or sibling could go to find the support their grieving parents likely could not give.  I started pursuing continuing education courses on grief and bereavement, and whenever possible, courses about children and grief.
   Years passed.  We had many scares and many trips to the emergency room with Richie.  Eventually and over the course of time he has received three cardiac ablations through the University of Iowa Hospital.  Overall, however, God has been good and Richie has been a blessing to our family every day.  He has made us laugh more than we could imagine.  He has shown grace and strength when we would have crumbled.  Yes, God has been good.
   Had I tried to force the vision of a children’s grief center on my timeline, I’m quite sure RHOH would not have been the success that it has been.  God unfolded the dream in His time.  I kept learning; kept dreaming; kept gaining professional experience.  One day in the Bettendorf Public Library I sat down to play around with this new thing everyone was talking about –The Internet.  On the desk was a large book, like a Yellow Pages Directory.  You could literally look up websites by subject.  I looked up “children and grief” and discovered there were a few places around the country doing just what I had been dreaming of.  Erin’s House in Indiana and Dougy Center in Oregon were especially exciting to read about.  I moved out of the dream phase and into concrete planning.  

   So it was that in 1999 I was hired by Genesis Medical Center’s Spiritual Care Department to create a Pediatric Grief Recovery Program.    We named the ministry Rick’s House of Hope in honor and tribute to Rev. Rick Johnson, Manager of Spiritual Care and a mentor to me who died suddenly in 1997.  Since 1999 the years many children and many volunteers have passed through the doors of RHOH.  I really believe every life has been touched in a positive way. 
   Today RHOH is an independent non-profit organization.  They gain support from individuals, churches and organizations who have learned of the success of RHOH’s service, those who want to invest themselves in the fulfillment of the dream. Genesis Health System, the original supporting agency, continues in a strong relationship with RHOH, offering staff support service, technology support and other resources.  Grant funding also provides needed materials, renovations, training and programming pieces.
RHOH comes alongside kids and families to help them along the grief journey.  All services are overseen by a master’s level counselor.   Both professional and volunteer staff  have opportunity to utilize play therapy and art therapy training from national experts on childhood trauma.  However, since many of the services offered by RHOH are offered in a large group setting, the families and kids do much of the work by helping, supporting and talking with one another.  Staff simply helps them along that path, offering information and guidance where they can.
   It is such a joy to me that RHOH continues to fulfill the mission of serving grieving and traumatized youth in the Quad Cities Region.  Director Emily Gordon, along with the Board of Directors, interns and volunteers, is doing a fantastic job of creating new service opportunities, reaching youth that RHOH has not reached before, providing expanded services for parents of grieving youth yet remaining extraordinarily faithful to the original vision.  As I cleaned children’s meeting rooms at RHOH on Saturday I was deeply moved to see on the book shelves curriculum I had written.  On the walls were art projects the children created during my tenure at RHOH.  Past, present and future hope are marvelously woven together in this new Rick’s House of Hope, housed now in a large farmhouse on Northwest Blvd. in Davenport.  I could go on and on because words seem so inadequate to express my gratitude for RHOH.  The chapter in my life story that would be entitled “Rick’s House of Hope” would tell of tears and heart break ; laughter and the deepest sense of fulfillment I have ever experienced.  It would tell of great friends and great challenges; of shared grief and shock for the Columbine High school shootings and the attacks of September 11.   It would tell of massive quantities of pizza consumed, giant banana splits, singing,  dancing, drumming, praying, plunging (toilets), scrubbing (sinks), shoveling (snow), hugs and high-fives,  flying kites, kicking balls, Tibetan prayer flags, Native American dance,  erupting volcanoes, emotional meltdowns…but always running through it all like the strong undercurrent of a mighty river the story would be about HOPE. 
   Today I celebrate Rick’s House of Hope.  If you would like to learn more about Rick’s House of Hope please visit

Rick's House of Hope, Davenport, Iowa

One of our summer arts projects - A Feeling Face Quilt

Terry and Jared hang the Journey of Grief Mosaic
 made by RHOH participants in 2000.

Charlie Klatt and Steve Klinghammer take a break

Parents Meeting Room, Rick's House of Hope
Teen Meeting Room, Rick's House of Hope

1 comment:

  1. Rick's House of Hope is a great ministry. Thank you for making your dream a reality!

    Anne Lippincott