Eighth grader inspires through personal story



Wood and Betsy Stover congratulate eighth grader Ivori Hufnagel (middle) after her speech at Ele's place. Her bravery was awarded with great gratitude. "I was nervous at first and then I gradually got more and more comfortable with the group so it bettered me in the end, Hufnagel said.

Social worker John Twining noted the bravery in eighth grader Ivori Hufnagel when she stood up shared her story in front of a large gathering at Ele’s Place he attended.

“A caring person, kind, and I really think that she benefited from talking about her experience,” Twining said of Ivori.

Ele’s Place, a healing center for grieving children and teens, provided an understanding environment and helped Ivori to open up a lot, not only throughout her speech but as importantly to her family.

“I was nervous at first to read, but the more I talked, the more comfortable I became,” Ivori said.

The nonprofit, community-based organization meant for creating awareness and support of grieving families, was founded by Betsy and Wood Stover and named Ele’s place after their daughter, who had passed as a child.

Katie Brickman, a bereavement and school program coordinator, started work at Ele’s because she “wanted to be able to help other children and teens not feel so alone,” Brickman said. “When I learned about Ele’s Place while I was obtaining my master’s degree in social work, I knew that this was exactly where I wanted to work, and that I would be able to make an impact.”

Brickman’s awareness at that time was realized from a personal experience as a child herself.

“When I was in middle school, my aunt died as a result of alcoholism,” Brickman recounted. “Her death made a lasting impact on me and my family. I vividly remember the feelings of shock and confusion, as I didn’t understand that chronic alcoholism use could be deadly.”

What Brickman remembered most was “feeling that I couldn’t talk about her death or my grief openly because there was so much shame in our family around the cause of her death. It was very difficult to cope with so many mixed feelings: sadness, guilt, anger, regret, on my own.”

A place to go for the grieving and the healing, Ele’s place has helped many young people like Ivori get through the losses of the ones they hold close to their hearts.

“Ivori had thanked Ele’s place for helping her get through the rough times of losing a loved one throughout her speech,” Twining said.