[Image shows three spoons on a laptop background. Overlaid is a clipart of torn white notebook paper with a red paperclip. On the paper in black text reads “Project: College Support Group”. Below is a white clipart of an awareness ribbon and below that is small red text is the URL for Thee Crohnie Grace Blog]
I remember being in the hospital on my 18th birthday, in the hallway outside my room there was a poster pinned to the wall. It talked about a support group for people with IBD, they were going bowling that weekend.
I remember thinking how cool it must be to live in an area that had something like that for their teens and young adults. Living in my town, you may have one or two students here or there with IBD, but not really enough for the basis of a support group.
Over the last month of so I had discovered two girls who I had gone to school with and one I had played soccer with had been diagnosed with mild gastroparesis. It then occurred to me that while there may not be a plethora of people with one specific illness, that my town was actually filled with people with various chronic illnesses and mental illnesses. Which makes sensing knowing that 1 in 2 adults will be diagnosed with at least one chronic condition now.
I thought to myself how fantastic it would be to have a group at the college where people of all health conditions could come together to receive support, to raise awareness, and to do fundraisers and stuff for charity. At the time it seemed like a distant idea. But then one night at 1am, I decided I was going to make that a reality.
I emailed our student services and disabilities advisor and told him about this idea I had. In the meantime I began to look for students, whether they had depression, anxiety, gastroparesis, or even a few students in our area with other illnesses, such as Friedreich’s Ataxia.
I figured with the number of students I knew, and probably the hundreds of students I didn’t know, that made a solid base for a college support group club.
[Image shows a geometric background with shades of yellow, green, and blue. There is a white banner with the gold WV logo and then blue text that reads “Parkersburg West Virginia University” and white text below the banner that reads “Support Group”.]
To be completely honest I wasn’t really sure where to start, I initially created a Twitter in hopes of finding more students who would be interested in such a thing, while also creating a Facebook group for organization and planning.
Luckily on Wednesday, the college SGA held a meeting about clubs. They held the meeting to discover which clubs were active and which were inactive. Despite not being an official club yet, I went anyway and signed in, and actually learned a good bit about how clubs are formed and ran.
That night I scheduled a meeting with the advisor, I began writing a constitution and by laws that are necessary. I filled out the application for the club that has to be approved. And I put together sample brochures/posters with all the information about what the club would do.
[Image on the left shows two stacks of paper on a table. On the top is the brochure which says “WVUP Support Group” and then contains various photos and information at the bottom. The other stack of paper says “Constitution and By Laws”. The image to the right shows me holding a binder and in the front of the binder shows the same brochure page from the photo to the left.]
I then needed to find officers to fill the necessary positions to start a club: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. I ended up finding three extremely passionate people to work along side me to make this club everything I hope and dream about.
[Image shows a girl with blonde hair pulled back and glasses in a purple shirt next to a man with brown hair and glasses and a purple shirt. They are holding a poster that says “You don’t have to walk to be beautiful” and then a orange banner over the photo that reads “We can #StopSuicide”]
Meet Alexis Jackson, our Vice President, who has struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time. She spends a lot of her free time raising awareness for suicide prevention and is also a member of #Anna’sArmy, a group started locally to help raise awareness of Friedreich’s Ataxia. She is dedicated to helping others and I am glad to have her on our team!
Next, our Secretary!
[Image shows a girl with long brown hair sitting cross legged on the grass, she is wearing a white shirt with orange text that says “And So I Kept On Living”, she is holding a piece of paper that reads “I Kept Living Because I am a WARRIOR and I refuse to let my depression take victory over my LIFE!”]
Kyleigh Hawes is our Secretary, and rightly so as she is a journalism major at WVUP, and has interviewed me already about the support group. On top of being our Secretary, she is also a feminist and suicide awareness activist, she has stated that this cause is near and dear to her heart, which is huge. She has such a kind heart and I’m glad to have her on our team!
And lastly, we have our Treasurer…
[Image shows a guy with short brown hair in a yellow and black tartan shirt sitting at a piano in a room.]
Dustin Digman is another student at WVUP and also our Treasurer now. He too struggles with depression and anxiety and is a close friend of our VP, Lexi. He has a tattoo of a water color semi colon which tells a bit of his story and part of Project Semicolon. “A semicolon s used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” He is a very genuine guy, and I’m glad to have him on our team!
And of course there is me, I am the President. I’ve been a long time activist for Disability Rights and raising awareness of chronic illnesses. I have Crohn’s, an ileostomy, Gastroparesis, an NJ tube, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and am a mobility device user, as well as I have OCPD and probably POTS.
[Image shows me in front of the college by the banner that says “Welcome to WVU Parkersburg”. I’m wearing my glasses and a floral sweatshirt, carrying my cane.]
With this incredible team we have already put together plans, our first organizational meetings will be next week, to work on an official meet day and to talk about the projects we already have planned.
Lexi has already found a few things for us to do, starting with next Saturday an “Out of the Darkness Walk” to promote awareness for suicide prevention, we are also working with her boyfriend who is a member of the Gaming Club on a joint fundraiser such as a Charity Gaming Fundraiser that are often seen on Twitch, and then on October 12th at WVUP there is a blood drive taking place in which we will be giving away cookies to people who donate blood.
On top of this, with the help of my graphic designing friend, Mike Mort (who runs his own online shop, as well as blogs and works with Make-A-Wish) we have created a logo for the club which will also be used for our club t-shirts once we get the funds!
[Image shows a black girl stick figure in a manual wheelchair in a blue shirt and khaki pants, then a boy with pale skin and red hair in a grey hoodie and jeans using a cane, next is a girl in a yellow shirt and pink jeans with brown hair and an olive skin tone holding a book and has a feeding tube, then a black boy with a green and white shirt and black pants with white sports stripes and has self harm scars on his arm, lastly we have a olive/tan skinned stick figure with brown hair and a yellow polo shirt and jeans in an electric wheelchair. In blue text bellow it reads “WVUP Support Group”]
Using the logo we have designed t-shirts for when we start doing fundraisers so people know who they can come to with questions or concerns, like uniforms but much more casual and comfortable.
Overall I think this is going to be a positive impact on the college and community and hopefully will help the students and create a sense of support and community amongst those with with chronic/mental illnesses or disabilities.
It makes me so happy to see my small vision become a reality with the help of friends and faculty members.
Follow us on twitter @WSpoonies 🙂