Tuesday's Children: Youth Mentoring - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Tuesday’s Children: From Pain Comes Purpose

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Tuesday’s Children was founded in December 2001 in response to the devastating emotional effects felt by victims of the attacks, to provide long-term support and youth mentoring services. As the country fought multiple wars, the organization broadened its scope to help those affected by terrorism, military conflict, and mass violence.

After the smoke and debris settled and the investigation into the attacks began, thousands of families were left to deal with losing a loved one, colleague, or friend on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. People worldwide felt the unimaginable shock of the day, but those closer to the events faced unique problems.

We recently spoke with Sara Wingerath-Schlanger, senior program director, and Sallie Lynch, senior program and development consultant, about Tuesday’s Children and their focus on emotional support, building resilience, and fostering community.

A Lifetime of Support

Grief is different for everyone. Loss and trauma can be felt long after the event. One of the unique aspects of Tuesday’s Children is their commitment to providing long-term support. This is why youth mentoring is at the forefront of their mission.

Since its founding, the Gold Star Family Youth Mentoring program has been at the core of Tuesday’s Children’s support model that assists the growing number of Gold Star children nationwide. The program meets the rising demand for one-on-one support after the loss of a parent or sibling who served post-9/11. Bereaved Gold Star children are supported by long-term Youth Mentoring matches who are highly trained and vetted adult role models, providing individualized attention specific to each child’s interests and needs.

“Our initial promise to the children is to see them into adulthood and beyond,” says Lynch. “We provide them with the childhood experiences they might otherwise miss out on by not having that parent or the guiding light in their lives.”

The mentoring program connects children and young adults who have lost a parent or sibling to a trained mentor who provides emotional support and guidance. Mentors undergo extensive training to ensure they are equipped to support their mentees.

A Growing Need

In the years since 9/11, first responders developed illnesses from their time at Ground Zero, and service members lost their lives in combat, adding to the number of people in need of support. Today, suicide is now deadlier than combat, according to a Brown University report. These issues have a ripple effect through families and have left a whole generation of kids needing the Tuesday’s Children mentoring model.

“We started doing feasibility studies, and there was a huge gap in services that met the long-term needs of these families,” explains Lynch.

To better understand where the gaps in support existed, Wingerath-Schlanger replicated the 9/11 Youth Mentoring Program for post-9/11 military families of fallen service members and veterans.

“We know that children who have experienced traumatic loss have many needs, so we ask dedicated adult role models to commit to the program for at least a year,” says Wingerath-Schlanger.

Coming Full Circle

The Tuesday’s Children mentoring program is for more than just its mentees. The mentors have found a community, too.

The nationwide program connects young people with mentors with similar interests, personality traits, and more. Each mentoring pair dedicates several hours each month to spending quality time together through virtual meetings, in-person interactions, or a combination of both. While Tuesday’s Children offers activity suggestions, such as volunteering, playing games, or attending sports events, the final decision on how to spend their time rests with the mentor and the child.

A young mentee and their mentor enjoy a baseball game.

“Many of our more recent matches have been veterans, and many of our families have been requesting that,” says Lynch. “It’s great for people who have served to maintain that connection and feel like they’re giving back, and it’s healing for them and the mentee.”

Tuesday’s Children can provide continuing education for new life stages through this community. For example, discussion groups organized and managed by a staff member keep support and relationships strong.

“From Gold Star wives to 9/11 surviving children, all of these people have been changed by loss and are stepping up in a supportive, dedicated way,” says Wingerath-Schlanger.

Through an NFL-BWF Salute to Service grant, we support Tuesday’s Children youth mentoring to help surviving children grow both emotionally and socially, build resilience, and develop coping skills while making healthy choices.