About Joel's Place for Children

Joel’s Place is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that offers free-of-charge bereavement support groups for children and their families who have experienced the death of someone special in their lives. Joel’s Place was founded in 2003 and operates on the belief that it is helpful and healing for grieving children and their families to share their stories, memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with other grieving children. 

Our peer-based children and family grief support groups meet every other Tuesday at Bay Presbyterian Church from 6:30-8:15pm. Families enjoy a meal together from 6:30-7pm, then the age-appropriate grief support groups take place, including our group for adults. We have no religious affiliation at Joel’s Place for Children; all are welcome.

Joel's Place for Children Proudly Introduces Our Executive Director, Becky McDermott

Becky McDermott served as Program Coordinator & Outreach Specialist under Board Vice President, Co-Founder and former Program Director Kathy Stellato from 2019 until she was promoted to Executive Director in August 2023. She has been a volunteer grief support group facilitator since 2017.

Becky's passion for children's grief support grows from the sudden death of her mom, Mary Jane Verner, when Becky was 10 years old. Her dad took Becky and her older sister to peer-based grief support groups. She says, "There I was given tools to feel the full spectrum of feelings about my mom's death. Before we attended groups, I felt so alone. This was the only place where the fact that she died was actually made me fit in."

Becky is grateful to manage operations for the organization, including leading the team of facilitators, working with the Board of Directors and being actively involved in the National Alliance for Children's Grief.

We remember and honor Mary Willhite

Mary Willhite, Joel’s Place Co-Founder and Board Member Emeritus died October 22, 2023. She is remembered for her warm heart and commitment to providing the very best grief support for Cleveland’s grieving children, teens and families. We are forever grateful for her dedication to Joel’s Place for Children and all her hard work establishing, maintaining and growing our organization.

Our Namesake

Joel’s Place for Children is named after Joel Willhite who died of colon cancer on May 24, 1998. He was 51 years old. His father died when Joel was 18. It deeply saddened him for the rest of his life. He would be honored that an organization that carries his name is providing comfort to children and their families who have suffered one of life’s most difficult experiences. Joel’s wife, Mary Willhite, is one of our Co-Founders and Board Member Emeritus.

Operating Philosophies:

• Grief is a natural reaction to the death of a loved one for children as well as adults.

• Within each individual is the natural capacity to heal oneself.

• The duration and intensity of grief are unique for each individual.

• Caring and acceptance assist in the healing process.

• Moving through the grief journey is not about letting go; it is about finding ways to incorporate memories of those that have died so that over time the loss is less painful.

• Essential to our work is a guiding belief that the support group environment can be a source of empathy, understanding, and encouragement to grieving children and adults during a very difficult time in their lives.

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