SWFL children grieving the death of family find support at ‘Valerie’s House’
One Fort Myers woman is on a mission to help children cope with the death of their loved one and lead them towards fulfilling lives.
Step by step, Sydney Emery makes her way into Angela Melvin’s arms. Then, they walk into ‘Valerie’s House,’ which is a place they can grieve the deaths of their mothers and learn to heal together.
“Our mom died at about the same age,” Emery, 9 years old, said. “My mom died of cancer.”
“I didn’t even talk about my mom’s death till I was in my late teens, early twenties,” Melvin said. “I knew I needed to share who Valerie was. The short life that she had and just the opportunity to continue her legacy of helping others.”
Melvin’s mother is the ‘Valerie’ in Valerie’s House. She created it in 2016 to help children and families who have lost a loved one.
Within Valerie’s House, Emery is looking at a memory wall with several dozen pictures of loved ones. Above the wall of smiling faces are the words, “forever in our hearts.”
“It reminds you that your loved one is still here even if they’re not physically here,” Emery said. “Like their soul is still with you but not their physical body.”
The team at Valerie’s House provides care to families grieving. Each month, there will be between 10 to 20 support groups going on where people can find support and community as they work on the healing process.
At a separate wall, new kids can pick a teddy bear or a stuffed animal. Some even choose a blanket. The toys and tools are provided to families for free and have helped over 800 children around Southwest Florida. The organization plans to expand to other communities and build groups in schools.
This weekend, Valerie’s House continues inspiring people by holding a holiday party for the over 140 families they serve. They are still accepting gifts for children and teenagers from now until Friday around 5 p.m. at 1762 Fowler St. in Fort Myers. It is all intending to help families find sunshine after a storm.
“No child should grieve alone,” Melvin said. “I’m gonna keep fighting for these children.”