In June of 2017, following the unexpected loss of their 11-year-old son, April and Jason Dyke launched a non-profit organization called Carson’s Village, which provides free resources and assistance in the immediate aftermath of sudden loss.
Q: What made you decide to start Carson’s Village?
JASON: Carson’s Village was inspired by both my wife, April, and our friend, Jennifer Bartkowski, who serves on our board of directors.
Along with many other friends, Jen really stepped up to help us out the week that Carson passed. She got us organized, coordinated all the nice folks who were trying to help us, and even went to the funeral home with us to finalize everything. Her efforts made a big difference during a very difficult time.
After we got past the funeral, April began posting about some of our ‘lessons learned’ experiences on Facebook. She was motivated to do so in part because she wanted to pass along the things we’d learned to other people who might someday find themselves faced with the unexpected loss of a loved one. When I saw her doing that, it made me begin to think: There really should be an organization that helps people dealing with sudden loss—does one exist? When my research revealed that there, in fact, was no such organization, I realized that I’d identified a gap that needed to be filled.
APRIL: As awful as that week was, I couldn’t help but take mental notes of all the acts of kindness that came our way, because I wanted to store them away as ideas to pull out later when it was my turn to help someone. For example: In the past, I would bring a full dinner to a family in need. While I’m sure this gesture was appreciated, after being on ‘the other side’, I realized that practicality and convenience are important considerations for a family in crisis. I have learned not to ask someone ‘what do you need’, because they might not know what they need. Instead, it’s better to offer choices. I also learned that it was okay to ask for help, since many people are often waiting in the wings to offer assistance. Carson’s Village is a vehicle we can use to share these insights with others—families who are grieving, and their friends who want to help them. Our work with Carson’s Village will enable us to pay forward the support and generosity that was offered to us during the most difficult time of our lives.
Q: What do you see as the organization’s primary benefit to grieving families or individuals?
JASON: Our mission is to help the families navigate that week of loss-to-funeral and to take as much weight off of them as possible. There is so much to do that week, and when you’re in shock and overwhelmed, you don’t know where to start. We give them the guidance and reassurance they need, which brings peace of mind about the decisions they are making.
APRIL: Carson’s Village is able to accompany a grieving family on one of the most difficult journeys they’ll ever have to experience. We are able to lay out what the upcoming days will potentially have in store, and arm them with the knowledge and resources that help them make the hundreds of decisions that have to happen during those critical days. One of the best resources we offer is our private family web page, which allows for a central location for monetary, food and service donations, as well as communication to be organized and maintained.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish during your first year of operations?
JASON: Carson’s Village was officially recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) on June 27, 2017. It is amazing when I think about how much we’ve accomplished since that time. We went from nothing but an idea to a professionally-run organization with an incredible board of directors. I get a great sense of satisfaction in how we help families navigate what is likely one of the worst weeks of their life. By June 27th of this year, I hope that we’ll be well on our way to being a known name in the North Texas area.