Kid in the Corner is a local non-profit dedicated to “helping each Kid in the Corner feel connected to and supported by the community.” I heard Kid in the Corner founder, Francine Sumner, speak a few years back and recently attended a Kid in the Corner community event called “Zach Packs” with my daughters. I had the opportunity to interview Francine to learn more about her inspiring work on behalf of this incredible Arizona non-profit.
Kid in the Corner honors the legacy of Zach Sumner, who tragically died by suicide in June of 2017. He was a smart, kind, and compassionate high schooler. His mother, Francine, describes the events leading to his death as, “the perfect storm.” A combination of a misdiagnosed mental illness/being placed on an incorrect medication, feeling lonely and overlooked at times by his peers, overwhelmed at school, and a manic episode all led to this wonderful person taking his own life.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident and many children across the country are suffering from mental illness without proper support. Kid in the Corner was born around Francine’s kitchen table a few weeks after Zach’s death and asks people to #StartTheConversation on mental illness rather than sweeping it under the rug. Kid in the Corner aims to empower kids to take care of themselves, help others, and seek out resources when they need them.
Francine notes that there are currently many gaps in mental health services in schools (and outside of schools) such as low funding, a shortage of school psychologists, and a lack of training in mental health awareness for educators. Francine’s goal is to put a resource card in the hands of every child in Arizona that contains the “penny pledge” on the front of the card and 5 hotlines that kids, parents or educators can access at any time for mental health support on the back of the card. The “penny pledge” was born from Zach’s love of coin collecting. When you visit the website to sign up for the pledge, you’ll get a penny necklace that serves as a reminder to reach out to others, to take care of yourself, and to be that safe person that others can talk to.
Kid in the Corner is based on 3 pillars: to educate and spread awareness of mental illness, to promote kindness, and to connect the community with mental health resources. This is accomplished through yearly community events, providing education to schools on mental health issues and resources available, and through the “penny pledge.”
Francine stresses the importance of kindness and describes how Zach exemplified this characteristic in his life by being the one to reach out to the kids in the corner that he encountered and through performing random acts of kindness. Every month Kid in the Corner shares a theme and ways to promote kindness to help others related to that theme.
Other ways get involved with this organization:
- Yearly Events
- January: “Zen for Zack”- Join in on a yoga class and a discussion on self-care
- March: Amie’s Farm Animal Sanctuary- Give back to animals
- June: “Zach Packs”- Put together bags of non-perishable items to give to those in need
- September: Kid in the Corner Kindness Rocks- Paint rocks with kind messages and spread them throughout the community
- Feed My Starving Children- Pack healthy meal packs for children around the world
- Annual Fundraiser
- Youth Group
- 8th grade to high school students who are passionate about shattering the stigma in their own communities and raising awareness for mental health in their school and community. Group meets every other week and provides a safe place to talk, come up with ideas, and be heard.