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Teen Zone in Lansing helps them with grief process

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:29 PM

Enter the room and you'll find an air hockey game, foosball, miniature basketball, a stereo and bright artwork on the walls. A haven for most any teen.

But this particular rec room has a specific audience. As part of Ele's Place, the new Teen Zone is a place for grieving teens to spend time together, get to know each other and help each other handle their losses.

Ele's Place, a 22-year-old nonprofit organization, focuses on support for grieving children, teens and their families. It serves an average of 200 children each week, along with their parents or guardians. It spans 12,700 square feet, a third of which makes up the new Teen Zone, which also includes an art area and two group meeting rooms.

The Teen Zone opened in September. It was designed to help teenagers feel more comfortable and welcome at the center, and to give them their own environment.

"The main reason we decided to do this was we had been hearing for years that teens didn't think Ele's Place was really for their age," said Laurie Baumer, president and CEO. "They were under the impression it was for younger children. We wanted to change that misperception through our marketing, billboards which now show teens, our tagline which now says "A healing center for kids and teens" and the new space which was designed specifically to appeal to teens."

The Teen Zone was a two-year, $67,850 project, put together largely with donations of materials, equipment and labor. The work was needed because of space constraints.

"Physically, there was not enough room upstairs," Baumer said, because the space was dedicated for younger children.

Ele's Place has five kids groups, with approximately 10 to 12 children in each group. They meet four nights each week, Monday through Thursday.

Teen Zone rooms are divided equally between the middle school and high school groups.

"The middle school groups will use free play time, then switch with the high school, so each gets time independently to use those rooms," said Baumer.

Baumer said knowing that they could do something even better than what they were doing before and helping teens through their grief journey in a deeper way has been the best thing about the project.

"The teens absolutely love it," said Baumer. "They feel comfortable and they feel welcomed. The game room is definitely the big hit. But even sitting in those big leather chairs ... makes the kids feel important. And that's a great thing."


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