Jun 14, 2023 - News

New nonprofit wants to help dads cope with loss

Photo illustration of a father hugging his daughter, a group of mourners, and a house, with abstract elements.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Stripped of nearly everything of value, including most of its siding, the abandoned house on Purdum Street in Kokomo doesn't look like much, but Derico Young can see its future.

  • The outside will be red and pink — his daughter Derisha's favorite colors — and the inside will be a place for fathers like him who've lost their children to gun violence.

Driving the news: Young is starting a nonprofit grief group for fathers who have lost children to violence, filling a void he found after his daughter was shot and killed in Indianapolis two years ago.

  • Derisha Young had just turned 21 when she was found dead in the passenger seat of a car on the southeast side.
  • No one has been charged in the crime.

Why it matters: Gun violence has become the leading cause of death among children, teens and young adults, leaving many parents grappling with the loss of a child.

  • While groups have cropped up to connect grieving mothers, fathers have fewer resources.

Between the lines: Heather Servaty-Seib, Purdue University professor in counseling and development, said grief groups are often built around talking about feelings, the stereotypical view of working through loss and mourning.

  • That tends to better suit women, she said, but many people cope differently.

Catch up fast: After Derisha's death, Young participated in support groups offered by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department — the agency investigating her murder — and a funeral home that helped with her services.

Yes, but: He wasn't finding what he needed.

  • "Nobody had words for me," he said. "Nobody knew what to say."

What happened next: Young reached out to two friends who'd also lost their children to gun violence, suggesting they start their own group for grieving fathers.

  • They considered renting meeting space in public buildings, but Young said he wanted somewhere grieving fathers would feel comfortable speaking freely and not pressed for time.
Two men and a woman stand inside a house in the midst of demolition
Harvey Lenoir, Derico Young and Loratta Davis inside the house that will become Ree-Ree's Place. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

The latest: Recently, he learned that an abandoned house in his neighborhood was headed for tax sale and offered to pay the tax bill if the owner would sign it over.

  • Young is still navigating his way through grief and anger but said the project has helped him begin to channel some of that toward a greater purpose.
  • He's calling the nonprofit Ree-Ree's Place, after the nickname he had for Derisha.
  • The house needs to be gutted, and he's begun demolition on the first floor with hopes to start holding meetings by the end of summer.

What they're saying: "It's needed," said Harvey Lenoir, a friend of Young's who has been helping with the renovation.

  • Lenoir's son was shot and killed a few months after Derisha, and he said he could've used a group like this.
  • "Somebody's story will help somebody else," he said.

What's next: Young is hosting a barbecue fundraiser this weekend to raise $5,000.

  • He estimates the project will cost around $10,000 total in the first year for construction materials and to pay off the back taxes.
  • Eventually, he'd like to finish the entire house, fence in the yard to provide a place for kids to play while their parents attend meetings and open the space to other groups.

If you go: Ree-Ree's Place, 819 N. Purdum St., Kokomo. Meals will start at $12 and be available to purchase from 10am-9pm Saturday or until food runs out.

  • Meal options include fish, chicken legs, rib tips and sides, including grilled corn, french fries, coleslaw and pasta salad.
  • Donations can be made at the event or digitally via Cash App and Venmo.
  • $ReeReesPlace on Cash App; @ReeReesPlace on Venmo.
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