Community Gem: Ericha Schuster provides ‘support system’ for grieving children

Ericha Schuster (right), pictured here with her husband Rob, volunteers with Grieving Children at Oak Tree Corner.
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Ericha Schuster (right), pictured here with her husband Rob, volunteers with Grieving Children at Oak Tree Corner.

HUBER HEIGHTS —For more than a decade, Ericha Schuster has helped give grieving children a safe space to work through the loss of a loved one as a volunteer at Oak Tree Corner in Dayton.

Schuster was nominated as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by agency director Vicki Braun because of the impact she has had on kids.

“She just loves them,” Braun said. “She connect to them. She listens to their stories. She plays with them. She has been a consistent factor in the lives of children who had a rough time.”

Oak Tree Corner provides grief support groups for children ages 3 through 18 whose parents, siblings, grandparents or friends have died. Some kids watched parents die slowly from illness. Others lost loved ones abruptly to suicide or overdose. Some even saw parents murdered in front of them.

Schuster, of Huber Heights, volunteers mostly with the children up to age eight. They play games, sometimes centered around grief, and allow the kids to share their feelings and interact with others going through similar situations.

“I just try to be their support system so they understand they aren’t the only ones going through this,” she said.

Schuster said she discovered that helping young children overcome trauma gave her meaning and joy. Now she plans her vacations around the group sessions so she can give the kids a sense of consistency.

“(The kids) keep me going when I have a rough time myself,” she said. “(They) are my bright ray of sunshine.”

Schuster said being recognized as a Community Gem “makes me feel wonderful.”

Braun said the impact Schuster has exemplifies Oak Tree Corner’s mission.

“(Giving children the) trust and belief that life will continue,” she said. “You can go on and be happy again and have happy moments and a very good life despite having a very horrible early tragedy.”

Anyone interested in helping support the Oak Tree Center can contact them at (937) 285-0199 or email OakTreeCorner@mail.com.

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