RENO, NV - There's little from the outside to indicate what happens in a brick home on Evans Avenue next to the University, but inside, well, the very walls are covered with names, messages and names. They speak of loss and remembrance, pain but also healing.
This is Solace Tree. It has one purpose to help families, particularly children who've suffered the death of a loved one.
In his work as a former school counselor, founder, Emilio Parga, a saw an unfilled need. People make assumptions about children and the death of a loved one. They underestimate their capacity and need to grieve.
"Everyone thought Well, they're dealing loss like they deal with incarceration or divorce," says Parga, "and I thought death is different though."
So taking his savings, he founded Solace House, a non-profit organization to address the need. Here children can work their way through loss, in discussion, through play, through art.
There's even a padded room if they feel the need to punch something.
The key is shared experience. Here they aren't the kid who lost a parent. They're just a kid.
"So they know that they're not the only ones going crazy," says Parga. "This family over here that I'm talking to and listening to is also going through something very similar."
It's also a safe place.
"What happens here stays here," says Parga. "We become a family. We're a club no one wants to belong to."
Clint Welch came here 11 years ago, bringing his two daughters and son. Together they found a way to deal with the loss of Clint's wife to a sudden heart attack.
Three years later, in fact eight years ago this week, tragedy struck again. His two teenage girls, Jessica and Cassie, were killed in a traffic accident on their way to school.
"It was surreal," he remembers. "I felt like I was out of my body. All losses are great, but that was very difficult. It took me about a year that I was in a place that I was ready for healing."
It was this place, he will tell you, and the support of others in the community that pulled him through.
So, he became a volunteer here, helping kids walk the same path.
"It's a journey," he says, adding that everyone has to find their own way.
It helps, however to share that journey with others.
"To be able to surround yourself with your peers and have people that have been through similar circumstances gives you the ability to release some of your inner feelings more easily than you would with someone who hasn't been through it."
Sadly, the need for what Solace Tree offers exceeds its capacity.
There's a waiting list of families seeking its help. Parga's organization's ability to offer that help is limited by space and the number of volunteers it has.
If you'd like to know more or if you know a family that needs help, you can contact them at www.solacetree.org or (775) 324-7723.
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