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Keeping late son’s legacy alive, non-profit founder Jaime Erskine-Pettit nominated as Remarkable Women finalist

todayMarch 27, 2024 1

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SPENCERPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Many of us could never imagine the deep wound losing a child can leave, but one of this year’s Remarkable Women finalists has transformed her pain into the promise of care and support for other families suffering like hers.

Jaime Erskine-Pettit says living on after the tragic loss of her son, Drake, was a seemingly insurmountable task for her, her husband, and children.

“He was a very fun and outgoing kid,” she remembers. “One of my favorite memories of him is he’d just had his birthday, and he had gotten one of those Thomas the Train books–he loved Thomas the Train–and it had a little keyboard that could play music on it. So he put it up outside his bedroom door and said, okay that’s my doorbell now!”

Drake’s happy smile vanished from their lives in 2012 when–at the age of four–he fell by the pool one day.

“Everybody was outside and kind of started screaming and rushing to try to help him and 911 was called, and so it was just overwhelming. All the firetrucks and the ambulance and everybody,” Jaime recalls of the harrowing day.

Despite best efforts, Drake passed away shortly afterward at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Jaime says from then on, she felt like she couldn’t wake up from a nightmare while living with the hole Drake left behind.

“You have that moment where you wake up first thing and, you know, you’re happy and you’re joyful and then all of a sudden, it just kind of hits you again that he’s not there, but then you hear your other children getting up. You have to move and keep going,” she says.

Not only did the family need to find a way to live on, they wanted to make sure Drake had a lasting legacy too. Jaime says through their grieving process, she noticed it was much harder to find support services for kids.

“There wasn’t anything in Monroe County, which I found really surprising. It was just definitely a big wake up call, because it’s not some thing that you think about or that would kind of even cross your mind,” she says. “Someone would ask my sons or my daughter, oh how many siblings do you have? I’d see my kids freeze like deer in headlights, you know? They had no idea how to answer or how that made them feel.”

From there, she collaborated with her husband and sister to start Dreams from Drake—a non profit that puts together counseling sessions for children who have lost anyone: a parent, sibling, a friend, or even a mentor.

“All my other children are going to grow up and do whatever it is they’re going to do, but that was stolen from Drake,” Jaime says. “It’s definitely our way of keeping Drake alive in our family.”

The monthly “healing circles of hope” incorporate age-specific counselors for younger and older attendees, and Jaime says they’ve also started including an adult counselor for the parents and guardians who bring the kids to the meetings.

“It’s about letting them know too about complicated grief and that oh, yeah that feeling happens to you too,” Jaime explains. “It’s been years, but I can be out in a store–say we’re back to school shopping–and see a woman with three big boys, and it’ll knock me back thinking that should have been me with all my sons together.”

The Dreams from Drake meetups also make sure the kids can have fun too by always taking place at a Rochester-area attraction like Lasertron and the Strong Museum of Play to give kids a break from their pain. After the counseling activities are over, they can go off and be kids.

Jaime remembers the first meeting where she saw the kids faces transform from despair to delight.

“Watching that interaction and that smiling, I just I wasn’t sure that you were going to see that, but that was the vision, and it came together beautifully,” she says.

Jaime says they’re currently supporting more than 175 local families. In the 10 years since Dreams from Drake began, she’s enjoyed watching the kids in her program grow up with some of them even coming back to volunteer and support other children.

“The only way I guess I can describe it is it almost feels like a hug or an embrace. It’s just a very warm feeling in an area that was very kind of cold and dead for a while,” she says smiling.

Jaime says she and her family will always be here to bring joy to anyone suffering and making sure the world doesn’t forget Drake Ross Pettit.

“I want to let everyone know don’t pay any attention to time, because grief has no time, and it might be something that may come, it might go, it might stay. Whenever you’re ready and you want to kind of reach out and connect with people, we’re here,” she says.

​ SPENCERPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Many of us could never imagine the deep wound losing a child can leave, but one of this year’s Remarkable Women finalists has transformed her pain into the promise of care and support for other families suffering like hers.

Jaime Erskine-Pettit says living on after the tragic loss of her son, Drake, was a seemingly insurmountable task for her, her husband, and children.

“He was a very fun and outgoing kid,” she remembers. “One of my favorite memories of him is he’d just had his birthday, and he had gotten one of those Thomas the Train books–he loved Thomas the Train–and it had a little keyboard that could play music on it. So he put it up outside his bedroom door and said, okay that’s my doorbell now!”

Drake’s happy smile vanished from their lives in 2012 when–at the age of four–he fell by the pool one day.

“Everybody was outside and kind of started screaming and rushing to try to help him and 911 was called, and so it was just overwhelming. All the firetrucks and the ambulance and everybody,” Jaime recalls of the harrowing day.

Despite best efforts, Drake passed away shortly afterward at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Jaime says from then on, she felt like she couldn’t wake up from a nightmare while living with the hole Drake left behind.

“You have that moment where you wake up first thing and, you know, you’re happy and you’re joyful and then all of a sudden, it just kind of hits you again that he’s not there, but then you hear your other children getting up. You have to move and keep going,” she says.

Not only did the family need to find a way to live on, they wanted to make sure Drake had a lasting legacy too. Jaime says through their grieving process, she noticed it was much harder to find support services for kids.

“There wasn’t anything in Monroe County, which I found really surprising. It was just definitely a big wake up call, because it’s not some thing that you think about or that would kind of even cross your mind,” she says. “Someone would ask my sons or my daughter, oh how many siblings do you have? I’d see my kids freeze like deer in headlights, you know? They had no idea how to answer or how that made them feel.”

From there, she collaborated with her husband and sister to start Dreams from Drake—a non profit that puts together counseling sessions for children who have lost anyone: a parent, sibling, a friend, or even a mentor.

“All my other children are going to grow up and do whatever it is they’re going to do, but that was stolen from Drake,” Jaime says. “It’s definitely our way of keeping Drake alive in our family.”

The monthly “healing circles of hope” incorporate age-specific counselors for younger and older attendees, and Jaime says they’ve also started including an adult counselor for the parents and guardians who bring the kids to the meetings.

“It’s about letting them know too about complicated grief and that oh, yeah that feeling happens to you too,” Jaime explains. “It’s been years, but I can be out in a store–say we’re back to school shopping–and see a woman with three big boys, and it’ll knock me back thinking that should have been me with all my sons together.”

The Dreams from Drake meetups also make sure the kids can have fun too by always taking place at a Rochester-area attraction like Lasertron and the Strong Museum of Play to give kids a break from their pain. After the counseling activities are over, they can go off and be kids.

Jaime remembers the first meeting where she saw the kids faces transform from despair to delight.

“Watching that interaction and that smiling, I just I wasn’t sure that you were going to see that, but that was the vision, and it came together beautifully,” she says.

Jaime says they’re currently supporting more than 175 local families. In the 10 years since Dreams from Drake began, she’s enjoyed watching the kids in her program grow up with some of them even coming back to volunteer and support other children.

“The only way I guess I can describe it is it almost feels like a hug or an embrace. It’s just a very warm feeling in an area that was very kind of cold and dead for a while,” she says smiling.

Jaime says she and her family will always be here to bring joy to anyone suffering and making sure the world doesn’t forget Drake Ross Pettit.

“I want to let everyone know don’t pay any attention to time, because grief has no time, and it might be something that may come, it might go, it might stay. Whenever you’re ready and you want to kind of reach out and connect with people, we’re here,” she says. Read More NewsRochesterFirst  

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