On March 30, 2008, a party had been planned, food in the oven, family and friends at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, we were celebrating Samantha Potter’s 10th birthday. Her birthday is actually April 2nd.
It is tradition by Grandma (aka, Stephanie) to have games (like birthday bingo) and such, everyone wins a prize that has been carefully selected, usually by the party person….in this case Sam.
Grandma had decided in February at our Valentine party, that we would all be responsible for painting and designing a wooden racer. She had bought them at the craft store for $1.00 each and gave them out that day with the intention of having a race at Sam’s birthday party, since it was the first birthday celebration of the year. That gave everyone about 6 weeks to paint and design a racer that could win.
It was fun to watch the girls (Sam and Emma) paint and glue jewels and glitter on their little racers and they helped their Daddy (Rob) paint his. They painted #1 Dad on his blue racer and he was so proud of it!
The day of the party was pretty normal. The girls were with Grandma, decorating and getting ready for the race. Grandpa came up with a track. The driveway is slightly downhill so using the ramp like platform to a corn-hole game, would give just enough momentum to carry the little racers onto the driveway and to the finish line.
Mommy (Tammi) had arrived and Daddy was still out for his morning of golf with his friends.
Grandma had lasagna in the oven, salad made, bread ready to go into the oven and lots of presents for Sam.
Friends had arrived and Uncle Jimmy too. (Rob’s brother)
The phone rang…….the words were devastating…..
We all arrived and found the coroner, EMT, fire department, police…..we went to the neighbor’s house.
Rob had died by suicide.
Our pastor arrived and the unbelievable had truly happened. This man who had a wife & 2 beautiful little girls who adored him, had chosen to end his life.
Much anguish and grief has passed through the lives of this family. Telling the little girls that their Daddy had died was the hardest thing that this Grandma has ever experienced in her entire life…..life as this family knew it would change dramatically.
People are cruel and so are kids. They only reflect what they hear. Most of the time they are a mirror image of their parents. The girls were transported to and from school every day by Grandma or Grandpa. They did not ride the bus. They had designated “safe adults” through school counselors, teachers and principals. When they were afraid or worried they would go to one of them and sit for a while or perhaps Mom or Grandma would pick them up.
The family went to counseling in different places. Mom went to a counselor through her church and struggled to keep her strength up for her girls. She worked part time (about 30) hours per week, and knew she needed to re- enter the corporate world to be able to provide for her girls. Her priority was keeping the girls safe at that time though. And she did.
Sam and Emma were treated through art therapy at Hospice of the Bluegrass. After about 2 years (2010) of therapy, they were released and had learned to cope with the loss of their Dad. (so was thought)
The family had a series of loss. GG (their Great Grandma Nancy- Stephanie’s mom grandma) died in late 2009, Great Uncle Ben died of cancer 2010, their Papaw (Tammi’s Dad) died suddenly (2010), and their Dad’s best friend died by suicide also (2010). They were so close to him they called him Uncle…..
The loss triggered emotions in Sam that were shattering. She threatened and attempted suicide. She spoke the words to her Mom that she just “wanted to die”, as she stood in the kitchen with a butcher knife in her hand. She wanted to be with her Dad. The hurt was rekindled by the loss of the others and depression had set in.
Sam’s grades had fallen from one term to another, from A/B/C’s to C/D/F’s. The school did not attempt to contact Mom either.
Sam had tried to cope but felt totally forsaken. Her Dad whom she worshipped was not there for her and she was afraid that if she told someone like Mom or her grandparents, they would think less of her. And she did not want to be a burden. So she struggled silently until she could not take it anymore.
Mom took her to the emergency room at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and they admitted Sam. She was in- patient for 10 days that time, and started medication and therapy. She was not to be alone.
Emma tried to help Sam all she could. She tried to engage her in games and TV, but like most siblings, there was a little tension. Emma seemed to be doing fine. Everyone watched her like a hawk, to make sure there were no unseen emotions stirring silently in her.
Sam was able to recover her grades after attending Sylvan. She went 6 months 2 times a week.
In March 2011, Sam had another setback. Her nanny was to pick her up at school after her chorus activities.
Sam was studying history and that day in class they viewed a film that was on the Holocaust. This film showed the devastation of death with bodies in piles and other unbelievable views of murder. This triggered the next set back.
The depression had swallowed her up again. It was near time of the anniversary of her Dad’s death and her birthday. Sam skipped her chorus program, when the Nanny went to pick Sam up she was not there. The phone calls began.
Mom (at work-48 miles away) was on her cell phone with Sam, Mom was also (other ear) on her work phone with Grandma, Grandma was at work in Florence, Sam was on the verge of suicide again. She wrote a goodbye note and called her Mom to say goodbye.
Mom kept Sam on the phone while Grandma drove the longest 10 minutes of her life, to Burlington to get to Sam. She was still on the phone with Mom when Grandma arrived, Mom was in route still talking to Sam. Sam threw herself in Grandma’s arms and wept, she cried she wanted her Daddy!
Sam was safe with Grandma, the nanny had arrived, Emma got home from school and Mom was driving while now on the phone with Children’s Hospital.
Sam was admitted again to the hospital. She went through testing and was put on another medication in addition to the anti-depressant she had been on. She studied at the hospital and was treated with therapy. Sam went from in-patient to the Day program. Her Mom took her each morning at 8:30am and her Grandpa picked her up every afternoon at 4:00pm. She did this for several weeks. She was then introduced slowly back to her school. She went to her school 2 days per week while attending the Day program the other 3 days. Then they reversed the order and finally the transition was made.
Sam saw her doctors every week for 2 months, then every 2 weeks and then each month. Her meds were monitored and her thoughts became more normal. She was beginning to be herself again.
On a visit with her therapist in August of 2011, Sam learned of a way that she could help the psychiatric division, College Hill Campus of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The place where she was safe and saved. Her therapist told her of the “Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Walk for Kids” event that takes place every October. She suggested that perhaps Sam would like to get a team together and come walk with the staff. She told her that there had never been a patient of the psychiatric division come forward and support the walk. Only the staff walked and this was the way that they raised funds for the psychiatric division.
That statement started a flame in Sam that was like no other!
Getting in the car, Sam told her Grandma (who took her that day) that she wanted to get 1000 people to walk for the hospital. She had a pad of paper and before they arrived back at her school, they had a business plan sketched out. Sam had a mission and Grandma was her side-kick, not to mention transportation!
Sam made 12 speaking engagements in the next 2 months. She had 56 registered walkers and raised over $4300.00 for the hospital. The psychiatric team walked with Rob’s Kids team and together they had 85 walkers and raised over $6500.00. This was enormous. The most that had ever been raised was $975.00 by the staff team. Sam is a pretty famous girl with the staff of the psychiatric hospital.
Sam shared her story with hundreds of people over those 2 months, she spoke to business organizations, BNI, Rotary, Kiwanis, Florence Women’s Club, Women’s Breakfast Network, JCPenney staff, her church (450 people in attendance) and many more.
She is a survivor. She has learned to live with the consequences of a decision made at the hand of someone else. Someone she adored. She has learned about depression and its devastating effects on her and others.
Her therapist was and still is amazed at the level of healing this project brought to Sam.
After the walk, Sam went to Grandma and said she wanted to do something for all the kids who struggle like her. She wants to have a way to help them and can we name it “Rob’s Kids” after her Dad?
Rob’s Kids, Inc. was born after that on January 12, 2012. Our mission statement:
Rob’s Kids, Inc. was formed by our family to help your family. We are passionately committed to making a difference in the lives of children who struggle with Depression & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We provide funding & sponsorship to psychiatric professionals, while providing resources & education to families, with a goal of providing a safe place, where kids can find a home away from home.
Rob’s Kids does events throughout the year to raise money to be able to give the kids in need, what they need. We have supported many local charities. Generosity Feeds food assembly program for Boone County, Give Back to School local program providing back packs and school supplies to needy children, Mentoring Plus, Surviving the Teens suicide prevention program and many more.
Our overall goals are to own a building. We would like to be able to provide a safe place where children can come and be loved. It is our hope to have activities, educational programs and therapy available to children who struggle with the day to day needs of life.
In this building:
We would like to have a little place for kids to hang out and eat – Sam’s name is “Radical Rob’s Chat n’ Chew.”
We would like to be able to provide animal therapy to be headed up by Emma our little animal lover.
Art therapy would be on the top of the list also. After seeing the progress that is made through the expression of art, Rob’s Kids, Inc. will always want to provide a source of release like this one.
We would like to be able to provide classrooms and lecture area’s available to other non-profit organizations, at little or no charge.
We want to become a presence in the community that provides love and care.
Because of the history that built this organization, Rob’s Kids has developed relationships with individuals and businesses who have expressed lifelong support.
Stephanie has dedicated 10 years to this organization with the expectation that Sam and Emma Potter – Rob’s Kids, will have their education completed and will be able and ready to take full responsibility of the organization.
Stephanie Potter’s personal goal: To continue to build an organization of integrity that is a community foundation. An organization that can help kids with Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder see beyond the reality of the present and help them find the security of the future. My passion is Rob’s Kids, Inc.
Now the little racers sit on a shelf. Sam admires them from time to time and she and Emma talk about the fun they had with their Daddy painting them.
Sam’s goal to keep her Dad’s legacy alive, is what drives her. Sam’s passion to help other kids who struggle every day like her, is what drives her. She has chosen a career in Medicine. Recently Sam was awarded the “Making a Difference” award by Cincinnati Children’s. She is on the Patient Advisory Board for Children’s Hospital, National Honor Society, Leadership League and more. Sam carries all AP classes, is a senior at Conner High School and finished her junior year with a 4.8 GPA and has won several academic awards, including being accepted into the PAEMS program at Georgetown College in 2014 and accepted into the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs in 2015. .
Emma is just starting to realize what she would like to do. Her focus is on kids and the elderly. She is considering a career in Geriatrics. Recently inducted into the Junior National Honor Society and also receiving awards for academic achievement all A’s with a 3.9 GPA, top math student and the Award of Excellence for Outstanding Work Ethic.
God has taken this tragedy and turned it into a miracle.
To Date: Rob’s Kids has built a Bike Path and new Playground at the College Hill (psychiatric) campus of Cincinnati Children’s. We continue to provide Christmas in July program for the staff and in December we provide a bag of gifts for the 150 children in the psychiatric beds.
We support many local organizations: Mentoring Plus, Notre Dame Urban Education Center, Warrior Run/Surviving the Teens suicide prevention program, Kids Against Hunger, Generosity Feeds, Give Back To School Program, Andrew Mistler Foundation, as well as local school programs and more.
We awarded our first “Rob Potter Memorial Scholarship” last year and this year we will be awarding 2 scholarships.
We serve on the Tristate Trauma Network Advisory Board, Florence Rotary, Boone County Kiwanis, Champion Program of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the Patient/Family Advisor Council Cincinnati Children’s.
Our foundation is 100% volunteers. Our board and volunteers all work full time jobs as well!