My career path has led me to a space where I work with at-risk and special needs students on a daily basis. As such, I have a tremendous place in my heart for youth that may require extra support, encouragement and love. I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most life-giving and joyful students while working within the special education system, and I can truly say that these students are some of my favorite people on the planet. Their capacity for love continues to humble and astound me and I am absolutely a better woman for having walked beside them. I am continually challenged to be wiser and kinder, and I consider it a privilege to learn from such skilled, talented and courageous young people.
For this reason, when my father shared the following story involving his friend and co-worker, my heart nearly folded in on itself. Following his lead, I asked about ways in which I could help. And so, with permission from the Meyers family to share their story, that is exactly what I am hoping to do. I’d like to create some good in a season that has been filled with pain. I’d like to help meet practical needs. And, most of all, I’d like to provide encouragement to this very brave and beautiful family. However, I can’t do it alone. Please read the following, and if, like me, you feel led to help the Meyers family, simply follow the link to donate to a fund that will be used to help with their mounting medical and mental health care costs. Feel free to share, repost, retweet and spread the word as you feel led. Your kindness is invaluable.
Thirteen years ago, Doug and Toni Meyers decided that they wanted to open their home to their two beautiful foster children named JD and Alli. These siblings came from truly heartbreaking circumstances. Court records indicated 16 reports of significant abuse, neglect and domestic violence within the children’s biological home. JD spent the first year of his life primarily in his crib, with minimal care and nourishment. Both JD and his sister were diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and demonstrated levels of Methamphetamine in their system upon birth. Knowing all of this, the Meyers opened their hearts, applied for legal adoption, and began their journey as a family in central Nebraska.
As JD and Alli grew into adolescence, they continued to need special supports within their schools. JD often had difficulty fitting in with peers and frequently struggled to make friends. Teasing from peers was familiar and bullying was not uncommon. However, when JD was fifteen, he began attending high school. While JD continued to struggle to find acceptance within his peer group, he began to find solace in his new Welding class. Quickly, his enthusiasm for the class grew. He was so proud to come home with his small projects and was excited about learning and helping others in the class. He soon made friends and started wearing work boots, just like the older classmates he respected and looked up to. He had found his niche.
However, when the second semester began, JD was required to enroll in a P.E. class and, in turn, drop his favorite welding course. He was heart-broken. JD’s physical limitations, (i.e. his stunted leg development due to significant neglect and undernourishment as a baby) kept him from keeping up with the rest of his peers in class. As the P.E. class continued, so did the required races and physical activities. J.D. found himself consistently falling behind and finishing significantly slower than his peers. Soon the taunting and bullying began once again.
Quickly, the bullying began to occur via online social media sites as well. Using Facebook, other sites, and texting, students began to pretend to be “popular” girls in school, flirting and “asking out” JD via private messages. Due to JD’s trusting nature, he was not always able to discern what was real and what was not. As such, he often believed that these girls were interested in him. This continued for weeks without the knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Meyers.
Eventually, JD isolated himself to the point where his main interactions occurred via the internet. This past spring, an anonymous individual (believed to be a child predator) began to email JD pretending to be a beautiful girl interested in being his “girlfriend.” They began “dating” and JD quickly became consumed with his affection for this new person in his life. In a weeks’ time this individual continued to contact JD, sending pictures affirming their relationship, and convincing JD more and more that she was “in love” with him. In April, this online predator, or “girlfriend”, asked JD to take inappropriate pictures of his little sister and share the images. When JD refused, she threatened to break up with him. When JD continued to resist, the “girlfriend” abruptly ended the relationship, sending JD into a deep depression. While Mr. and Mrs. Meyers had begun to sense that something inappropriate was occurring, it was only when JD shared the story about the “break up” that they realized something was seriously wrong.
Immediately following, on May 1st, at 3:30 PM, Doug Meyers received a phone call stating his father had been diagnosed with cancer. As expected, he was devastated. Two hours later, at 5:30 PM, Doug went out to the neighbor’s barn in search of JD. When Doug arrived, he found that JD had hanged himself. For twenty-five grueling minutes, Doug administered CPR, restarting JD’s heart and repeatedly breathing oxygen into his son’s weak lungs as they waited for emergency personnel to arrive. JD was immediately rushed to the hospital, where he was subsequently air lifted to a pediatric intensive care unit three hours from home. Once there, doctors determined that he had suffered from significant loss of oxygen to the brain. It was a very painful day for the Meyers family.
Due to the oxygen loss, JD’s cognitive and language skills have been impacted. Most significantly, JD suffers from marked deficits in memory and an increased presence of a speech impediment. It is projected that he will need long-term support and rehabilitation. While this information is harrowing for the Meyers family, they know how lucky they are. The doctors report that JD was very close to losing his life. He is in the 1% of the population who survive strangulation.
Today, the Meyers family is continuing to try to seek out information on what kind of predatory online activity occurred and who was behind it. They are also working with JD’s school staff and administration to work towards decreasing the potential for continued bullying and harassment. When all is said and done, JD continues to be a regular and vivacious teenage boy who strives to be loved and accepted by those around him. He is continuing to try to understand the events that preceded that day in the barn and, as he is able, he participates in therapy and rehabilitative services to help him process his feelings about the last year. With a heart as big as his, it can be difficult to understand why the bad so often outshines the good.
My hope is that JD can continue to receive the support and treatment that he will need. However, his treatment will be extensive and expensive. The Meyers family is steadfast, courageous and humble. They are more apt to give than to receive, and as such, would never ask for financial help. So, I've decided to ask for them. Let’s gather together to provide support and encouragement to this wonderfully brave family as they face a difficult road. I’d like them to know they are loved. I’d especially like for JD to know he is loved. And I’d like to turn the tide, and remind the Meyers family just how bright kindness and generosity can shine. If you’d like to help, please donate below.