After almost a year of searching, the Kyle Hyland Foundation for Teen Support has found space for its new teen center at the Gateway Church on Military West.
Hyland was a 16-year-old Benicia High School student who died by suicide in December 2014. After his passing, Hyland’s mother, Barbara Gervase, set up the foundation to promote awareness of teen suicide statistics and provide support to those in need. One of the goals has been to open up a teen center where high schoolers can hang out to perform music, create art, play video games and table tennis and get help from peers and counselors on stress and anxiety issues.
One of the main obstacles has been finding a space big enough to provide all these amenities. However, Gervase says that Gateway Pastor Jerry Pollard agreed to lend 1,500 square feet for the center.
“Police Chief Erik Upson had a conversation with Jerry, and he was looking for ways to reach out into the community and make a difference,” she said. “Upson mentioned the goal of our nonprofit- to open a teen center- and next thing we knew, Jerry had talked to his congregation and the elders and his ward there, and he reached out to us and offered the space.”
Gervase says the building was actually designed for the church’s youth group.
“They have a fairly small congregation and small youth group, so it never really worked out for that purpose,” she said. “They’re looking for ways to use that building for the community, so this was a perfect fit.”
The church is located on 1035 Military West, about a block from Benicia High and within walking distance of Benicia Middle School.
“It couldn’t be a better location for us,” Gervase said.
The space also has a coffee bar that the foundation will be using as a snack bar and a stage area with a drum set and a sound system. Since Hyland was an avid piano player, Gervase wanted the center to provide teens an opportunity to create music. She also noted that several amenities are lined up to be used.
“We have furniture that we collected in our yard sale we had a few months ago,” she said. “We have a game table, and we’re looking for someone that has a pool table that we’ll hopefully be moving in soon.”
Gervase says the foundation is looking at ways to modify the space, including cubicle dividers to create an office space. However, the church does not have room for a private area for counseling. Gervase says the foundation is looking for ways to create additional space, including the possibility of a portable if the city allows it.
“We’re hoping we can have a way to somehow have that private space for the counseling,” she said.
The foundation will be hosting a memorial walk for Hyland on Saturday. Gervase said she wanted to hold the event close to Dec. 22- the anniversary of her son’s suicide- but felt having it on a weekend would allow more people to participate. The walk will begin at 10 a.m. at the First Street gazebo with participants going all the way down to the pier. At 10:30, a short ceremony will be held at the pier with music and poetry as well as friends sharing memories of Hyland.
Gervase said the original plan was for a canopy to be set up with light refreshments, but with the weather forecast calling for heavy rain on Saturday, the refreshment portion may have to be moved to Gateway Church at around 11:30.
“It’s a good opportunity for people to see the space before we move in,” she said.
Donations will be accepted for the event, and funds for the center are still being accepted through the crowdfunding site YouCaring.com. As of press time, close to $19,000 has been raised of its $30,000 goal.
“We are a nonprofit, so all of the donations are tax-deductible,” Gervase said. “We really do need donations to help fund and be able to continue to run the teen center.”
An open house is scheduled for Jan. 9 to sign up volunteers to help run the center. Gervase hopes to have the center open two weeks afterwards.
“It feels great to finally have space,” Gervase said. “I’ve been working on it for the past 11 months, so it’s very exciting. We have a lot of plans, and we can’t wait to open.”
For more information about the center, the memorial walk and suicide prevention or to donate to the YouCaring site, visit the foundation’s website at KyleHyland.com.