BALTIMORE — Behind 11-year-old Denim Crowder’s smile is the struggle of coping with losing two of the most important people in his life.
“I lost my uncle and my grandfather,” he said. “It was hard to lose somebody that I love the most.”
Crowder’s pain is a shared feeling at Redesigning Minds first annual grief camp. Every kid at the camp has lost someone close to them.
The hard conversations about their trauma are made a little easier at the camp because these kids no longer feel alone.
“Listening is more stronger than talking,” said Michael Wise, who is the CEO of Redesigning Minds.
Wise created the organization, which is a psychiatric rehabilitation program, three years ago to address mental health in kids.
“We noticed that a lot of times kids that suffer from or have mental health situations people have a tendency to target them as behavioral problems,” he said.
The issue of mental health is also personal for him. Two years ago, his son was shot and killed.
“I just wanted to think what could we possibly do for the people that have already went through or gone through or will go through what I went through,” Wise said.
The camp is one of many services his organization provides.
Redesigning minds has more than 350 kids, focusing on managing stress, health and hygiene, anger management, conflict resolution and so much more.
“Redesigning minds, the whole name and the concept came [from] just change the way people think,” Wise said. “Let us know that in a bad situation there’s always a way to think and make it a positive situation.”
To be part of the program, the kids must see a therapist. The goal is to evaluate their mental health, which aims get to the root cause of what’s affecting their behavior.
“Structured environments really matters, as many positive people in their life really matters and attention matters as well,” said Brandon Johnson who leads the organization’s recruitment efforts.
Brandon Johnson helped Wise start the organization.
Johnson is also one of the many counselors and mentors at Redesigning minds
He can relate to what these kids are going through.
“I lost my son two years ago to gun violence,” he said. “It was a tough time for me.”
Johnson wears a band with the date of his son’s death every day to remember him.
He said he may not have been able to save his son, but his loss fuels a mission to try and save others.
“Now I know I can’t save them all, but collectively in the community we can and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re changing one brain at a time,” he said.
For Crowder, he now knows pain is only a chapter in his book of life. And with help, he understands he can author a story that ends in success.
“If you are one of those kids, you need to talk your parents, your mom, someone you actually trust,” he said. You need to talk about your feelings. If you don’t talk, the more you isolate yourself [and] the more you isolate yourself; the more bad you feel.”
If you're interested in signing your kids to be a part of Redesigning Minds, you can learn more about the organization by visiting their website