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Desert Companion

Profile: Kelly Thomas-Boyers of Adam's Place for Grief

The tragedy: Four years ago, Las Vegan Kelly Thomas-Boyers lost her 21-year-old son Adam due to injuries suffered in a car crash. A state legislative intern and student at University of Nevada, Reno, he'd been a car passenger for less than five minutes when the driver swerved to miss someone. Adam hadn't fastened his seat belt. "I never dreamed he'd be in a car without wearing it," she says. The mission: Kelly was asked to testify in Carson City two weeks after losing Adam in regard to state-mandated seat belt laws. "We're losing too many young people, and it's preventable." In states where there's a primary-enforcement seatbelt law, health costs are significantly reduced. Now she's hoping to spare others the same grief over a preventable death. She continues to advocate for a seat belt law, because she doesn't want someone else to experience her pain. "I've always been a health advocate for health measures like exercise, nutrition. That's what seatbelts are - a preventable health measure." Grief isn't preventable, but there are coping tools that can help. Sitting in a Reno Starbucks, Kelly found a brochure about a grief-counseling program for children. Concerned about how her younger son was handling the loss of his brother, she searched for a similar program in Vegas and found nothing. "My family and I could afford counseling. Not everyone can, especially in this economy." She built the program herself, and it's making a difference. It took two years of planning, but since September, Adam's Place, a Grief Center for Children and Families (840 S. Rancho Drive, www.adamsplaceforgrief.org), has trained 30 facilitators and counseled 40 families. It helps when strangers speak the same language of loss. Families commit to three visits, after which they can continue to attend Adam's Place for as long as they're comfortable. "Sometimes it's easier to discuss grieving with someone who's not family," says Thomas-Boyers. "If we can help children better cope with a negative situation, the loss of a parent or sibling, then we've served them."

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