Free of charge: NARI Foundation remodels Kyle’s Korner, where kids who’ve lost loved ones get support

WAUWATOSA -- Leah Shaffer, her daughter Jailyn and her son Mason celebrated dad’s birthday on Wednesday, March 7. Only one thing was missing -- the man himself. Gary Shaffer died in May 2016, at age 47, from complications following a liver transplant. Jailyn was two at the time; her older brother only three.

“We went and got a cake and we sang ‘Happy Birthday.' Having to deal with the grief of losing my husband and then trying to also explain that to them, it’s pretty difficult," said Leah Shaffer.

She eventually learned about Kyle’s Korner in Wauwatosa, a facility that works with children ages 3-18, and their families, who have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Kyle’s Korner in Wauwatosa

“We help them acknowledge what their feelings are, and we give them skills to cope with that because it doesn’t go away. They live with it for the rest of their lives,"  said Paula Harris, executive director.

“He’ll actually come to me now and start talking to me about his dad and what he misses," Leah Shaffer said of the progress her children have made. "Or they’re not afraid to now say, ‘hey Mom, what was Daddy’s favorite food?’"

The goal is to help children open up. However, with 30-40 kids coming through the house each week, some things need to be covered up.

“You can imagine the wear and tear on carpeting and furniture and wall space," Harris said.

That’s where the Milwaukee NARI Foundation comes in. Members in the home remodeling industry were on hand Thursday to start painting, replacing carpet with hardwood floors and completing other long-overdue renovations.

“The foundation is about helping in the community. Everyone is touched by someone or knows someone that deals with something like this -- losing a loved one at a young age," said Tom Mainville, board member.

It’s tens of thousands of dollars of work, all free of charge to Kyle’s Korner, so that more families like Leah Shaffer's will find comfort in times of tragedy.

“Someone is thinking about our kids and our families, and how important it is to help these families that go through these crises," said Leah Shaffer.