Suzanne Court got into the work of helping Niagara’s kids by doing one simple thing: listening.

That attitude is carrying through with her RRPC Innovation Foundation’s latest donation to the Education Foundation of Niagara. The donation will help the EFN and District School Board of Niagara continue providing mental health services that have only become more important as COVID-19 drags on.

“If you have grief you have grief, and if it takes eight months versus 12 months, they need help,” said Court, founder and president of the RRPC Innovation Fund.

The donation will allow the DSBN to provide clinical services for students dealing with grief and loss. Court said the decision to support this area of service came after the foundation helped fund an after-school program where funding had dried up. Seeking other ways to help, she learned from Laura Byers of the Education Foundation of Niagara about some of the mental health services offered. Some students are dealing with complex forms of grief that take time to get resolved. However, given resource challenges, they can’t always get the help they need.

“I said, ‘what happens to those kids,’ and she said that’s sort of it. And I was like, well that’s not ok,” Court said.

The funding will continue and expand those services. Dr. Amanda Sherman, mental health lead at the DSBN, described how important that help is, especially in light of COVID-19.

“On average, by the age of 16, about one in 20 children will live through the death of a family member or significant person in their life,” Sherman said. “Because of COVID-19, students have had to miss important rituals, routines, and rites of passage around death, like funerals and gatherings, or they’ve lacked social support due to physical distancing.”

Court created her foundation in honour of her father, Richard Court, who made giving back a staple of his life.