Kaitlyn Beesley’s mother died far too young.
And in her name, Beesley is working to create a future in which everyone has access to the help that might have prevented her untimely death.
“She just didn’t have the resources to ask for help and be OK with that,” Beesley recalled of her mother.
It is for Beesley’s mother that the Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship was founded this year. Joanna Rieke was a woman with a bubbly personality who loved to dance and sing and adopt stray dogs. She also struggled with mental health issues as well as alcohol use. She died in 2016 at the age of 37 because of these struggles.
Beesley, a graduate of Western Governors University teaching fourth grade at Grand Mound Elementary, said she had thought for some time about honoring her mother with a memorial scholarship aimed at creating more helpers for those who live with mental health issues. She finally decided to begin the work after encouragement from her friend, Mary Bartlow. The two were talking one day about long-term life goals and Beesley mentioned the wish to someday create the scholarship and Bartlow encouraged her not to wait any longer. Both Beesley and Bartlow graduated from W.F. West High School in 2017 and they asked Chehalis School District college prep advisor Kerri Chaput what she thought of the idea and she agreed that it was something that was needed.
The Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship foundation’s first goal is to furnish scholarships for local graduating seniors pursuing a career in behavioral health. Right now, they are working with the Rochester School District to offer scholarships for graduates there in 2023. Beesley said they would like to eventually spread to other local Title 1 schools.
“We’re just hoping that schools that don’t have great access to scholarship money will become part of it,” Beesley said.
The second goal of the organization is to help spread the word about resources that are available in our community for those struggling with mental health issues. Beesley uses the Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship Facebook page to highlight different resources such as the new 988 suicide prevention hotline in Washington state, Cascade Community Healthcare and the Centralia Prevention Coalition.
“We want to just bring more awareness of that and the stigma that comes with it,” Beesley said.
Supporters have had a few fundraising events, but were mostly limited to friends and family. The organization also benefited from a painting event offered in downtown Centralia during this year’s Pride event in June. A Community Game Day planned for Aug. 13 in Centralia will be the first official public funraiser for the scholarship fund.
Taking place at the Centralia Train Depot with outdoor activities across the street at Pine Street Plaza, the Aug. 13 Community Game Day will feature a variety of games and activities suitable for all ages. There will be a variety of board games to play, community booths with activities and the downtown Centralia toy store Let’s Play Something will be offering backyard games to rent and play on the plaza.
Admission is free for kids and by a donation of at least $10 per adult. Beesley said those wishing to attend the Community Game Day can pay at the event or make a donation of at least $10 through the link on the Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship Facebook page and show a receipt at the door.
Attendees will also get a green ribbon sticker, the ribbon for mental health awareness, which will get them discounts at various local shops that day.
The Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship was first organized in March and is currently in the process of gaining its nonprofit status.
Beesley said they have partnered with Cascade Community Healthcare to accept donations until their nonprofit status is approved.
Beesley said they hope to have other fundraising events in the future but are currently looking for more volunteer help to make that possible. But like the Community Game Day, they always intend future events to be held somewhere where alcohol is not served, to avoid triggering for someone, and to be family friendly.
“We want them to be things that bring people together and help their mental health,” Beesley said.
Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship Community Games Day
When: Noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 13
Where: Centralia Train Station, 210 Railroad Ave., Centralia
Cost: Free admission for kids, minimum $10 donation for adults
For more information about this event or how to donate or volunteer for the Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship, check out the Joanna Lynn Memorial Scholarship page on Facebook.