Goshen nonprofit founders surprised with Governor's award

NOW: Goshen nonprofit founders surprised with Governor’s award

GOSHEN, Ind. -- It’s been over 30 years since Goshen couple Rex and Nancy Gleim’s son Ryan tragically died in a car crash, but his name and legacy is still honored to this day.

“They actually took their son’s death and made something really positive out of it,” says Aileac Deegan, President and CEO of Ryan’s Place in Goshen.

While grieving Ryan’s loss, Rex and Nancy discovered a need in the community: a resource for children who have trouble understanding and dealing with death. 

They had no luck finding outside support for Ryan's younger brother who took the loss especially hard. 

"Because there was nothing, they decided, 'Well, let’s go for this, let’s do our research and find out how we can start this,’” Deegan explains.

Ryan’s Place was born in 2002, 10 years after Ryan passed. 

Now, just days away from the 22nd birthday of the organization, its founders Rex and Nancy received an honorable Governor's award, The Sagamore of the Wabash, for their work in assisting over 19,000 children, teens, and families in the community face their own loss.  

“Congratulations Rex on your very-deserving award,” State Representative Joanna King said to Rex as she handed over the award.

Not only was the award a complete surprise to Rex, Nancy, and the dozens of Ryan's Place volunteers in attendance, but it’s something Rex never imagined could come from such a dark time in his life. 

“I really don’t know what to say, I’m completely out of words,” said Rex while accepting the award.

As humble as the two are, they thanked the volunteers and staff at Ryan's Place for their daily work in bringing light to people’s lives in a time of grieving; work that’s more important than anyone might know. 

“The recognition for Rex and Nancy and what they’ve done, it kind of gives us a seal of approval as well, and people see the importance of it,” says Deegan.

The evening ended with a volunteer appreciation ceremony, as Rex and Nancy say they couldn’t have done it without the volunteers over the last 22 years. 

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