Brooke’s Place Brings Joy and Builds Community Among Young Hoosiers Experiencing Grief

Born out of tragedy, Brooke’s Place gives young people and their families a safe place to express and explore their grief.
Featured Image Brooke's Place

“Get Engaged (in Your Community) with Tiffany Hanson” is a series exploring community engagement opportunities in Indianapolis. 

A photo of the Get Engaged slide with a picture of a woman next to it

American Eagle flight 4184 memorial

On an icy Halloween evening in 1994, American Eagle flight 4184 crashed in Roselawn, Indiana. 68 people died, including Tom Wright, leaving his children, Brooke and Brent, to grieve their immense loss.

Family friend Pam Wright recognized a critical need to help alleviate the feelings of isolation for Tom’s children and others like them. Wright formed a planning team of hospice workers and community childhood grief advocates to begin the process of creating an organization for kids, like Brooke and Brent, to be with other kids who also had experienced the death of a loved one. Later, Brooke was asked to lend her name to the organization in tribute to her courageous grief journey. 

A Brooke’s Place ongoing peer grief support group

Brooke’s Place opened its doors on April 15, 1999, serving 41 individuals from 23 different families that first night at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church.

Founded on the belief that every young person deserves the opportunity to grieve in a supportive, understanding, and nurturing environment, Brooke’s Place gives young people and their families a safe place to express and explore their grief.


Twenty-three years later, Brooke’s Place has served more than 24,000 individuals through ongoing peer grief support groups and short-term programs, therapy services, a special summer camp, and community education. In each interaction with a person who is grieving, the Brooke’s Place team strives to meet the child, teen, or young adult where they are, both emotionally and physically.

Theresa Brun, Executive Director of Brooke’s Place

“Our goal is not to help youth get over the death of their loved one, but rather to help them understand their loss, learn coping strategies, gain a renewed sense of identity and self-worth, improve their functional capacity and enjoyment of activities, and increase their general sense of well-being so they can go on living a healthy and productive life,” Executive Director Theresa Brun shared.

Brun explained that by sharing their grief with similarly situated peers, bereaved youth gain the strength and confidence to go on and achieve the things in life they desire, while avoiding long-term consequences. After attending Brooke’s Place ongoing support groups, 87% of participants felt they had increased their healthy coping skills, and of those in Brooke’s Place therapy services, 93% expressed an increase in healthy coping skills as well. “This is vitally important not only to the child or teen but also to the community,” Brun pointed out.

Campers at Camp Healing Tree in 2021

In addition to short- and long-term group programming and individual counseling, Brooke’s Place hosts Camp Healing Tree, a special weekend camp designed to help young people deal with the death of a loved one, build self-esteem, and trust others. Through the support of adult volunteer “buddies” and group facilitators, the campers participate in meaningful group discussions, as well as fun camp activities like swimming, games, and crafts. The weekend also concludes with a memorial service for campers and their families to explore and express their feelings.

The Brooke’s Place team believes that connecting with others through shared experiences helps grieving youth and families know they are not alone in their grief. 


At 12 years old, Theresa was dealing with the loss of four loved ones: her grandmother, her aunt, and two friends. And as a self-proclaimed introvert, Theresa didn’t feel she had many friends to talk with about her grief until her mom found Brooke’s Place.

“I have to admit, I was a little scared of Brooke’s Place in the beginning, but now I never want to miss a night! Everyone is so understanding and patient when you speak. It’s like you can put yourself at peace when you’re there,” Theresa shared.  

She went on to describe the activities she likes to do at Brooke’s Place meetings, noting how much she enjoys how they help her reflect on her feelings about loved ones through games and creative activities.  

A Brooke’s Place family member with a Paws & Think therapy dog

“I love when the Paws & Think dogs come because I enjoy reading to my group as they are petting the dogs and the group loves hearing the stories I read. I’m currently reading a book titled, ‘A Monster Calls,’ by a wonderful author named Patrick Ness. But that’s off topic,” Theresa shared, getting lost in explaining the joy these interactions bring her.

“Actually, now that I’ve joined the program, I don’t know what I’d do without it. Thank you, Brooke’s Place!” Theresa enthusiastically declared.


Marla Taylor

Marla Taylor recently served on the Brooke’s Place board of directors, contributing additional time and leadership skills as board chair for several years, and is committed to being a lifelong supporter as an active volunteer and vocal advocate for the importance of their work.

Taylor shared, “My mom died very suddenly when I was just 11, and while I can’t pretend to understand anyone else’s experience with this kind of loss, every time I meet a young person at Brooke’s Place, I can see myself in them. I joined the board not long after my dad died, and honestly, meeting everyone at Brooke’s Place as an adult was probably the first time in my life that I didn’t feel alone in my own grief.”

She explained that she felt “wholeheartedly welcomed” into a community of people who not only gave her the space to sit with her grief, but just as importantly, sat beside her in her grief, providing her support that she’d never experienced before.

Taylor accepting a proclamation naming April 15th Brooke’s Place Day in Indianapolis from Mayor Joe Hogsett

“I think we’re just now beginning to have this conversation more as a society, but the trauma that a young person carries when they experience the death of a loved one has a huge impact on every aspect of their life for the rest of their life,” Taylor shared. “When that trauma goes unaddressed, the compounding effects of that grief can unfold in really devastating ways over a lifetime, all of which we have the power to address!”

Taylor placed importance on how the Brooke’s Place team recognizes that the individuals are all experts in their own grief journey, and that while no two people have the same experience, their team understands how to create an environment full of care and support to ensure youth and family members never feel alone in their grief. “They create this magical, supportive place where you can work through that trauma in a really safe and healthy way,” she added.


With ever-expanding needs and the addition of new programs as well as a new space, Brooke’s Place is in need of new volunteers, talent, and financial gifts. Here’s how you can get engaged with the Brooke’s Place mission:

  • Marla Taylor suggests, “Volunteer as a buddy to welcome families to program nights and serve dinner, giving those families one less thing to worry about at a time when their world has likely turned upside down with the loss of a family member.”
    • To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Sophie Meagher at
  • Mavens can also volunteer as facilitators for ongoing support groups or short-term BP8 programming. These volunteers provide a safe and supportive environment for grieving children and their caregivers, and no counseling background is required because Brooke’s Place provides facilitator training for all interested individuals. 
    • To learn more about this opportunity, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Sophie Meagher at
  • Have a team at church or at work that would love to get involved? Brooke’s Place also provides group volunteer opportunities (like making blankets for their holiday store or organizing donation drives). 
    • To learn more about group volunteer opportunities, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Sophie Meagher at 
    • To learn more about hosting a supply drive, contact Advancement Manager Taylor Morgan at
  • Don’t have time to volunteer, but want to contribute to this valuable mission? Brooke’s Place has an Amazon wishlist for items to support ongoing programs such as paint, LEGOs, paper plates, and drinks.
Participants of the Brooke’s Place support program
Participants of the Brooke’s Place support program

“Perhaps the most meaningful thing any Maven can do is share Brooke’s Place with any family they know who is grieving the loss of a loved one so that family can join a community of peer support where they will never feel alone,” Taylor suggested.

Experiencing the death of someone significant can be very isolating for children, and their behavior can oftentimes be misinterpreted as something other than an expression of grief. If you know of a family that needs grief services, whether a parent, friend, or family member died, feel free to refer them to Brooke’s Place. 

Stay up to date with how Brooke’s Place is serving your community by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Tiffany Hanson is an outreach and engagement professional committed to finding ways to embrace and support humans wherever she goes. You can find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

All of our content—including this article—is completely free. However, we’d love it if you would please consider supporting our journalism with an Indy Maven membership

Related Posts