News: Neillsville - Dylan’s Den After School Program (2019)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
E-mail: b

Surnames: Breit, Pankratz, Krejci

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 1/02/2019

Dylan’s Den Afterschool Program (Starting up Again - 2019)

Dylan’s Den Afterschool Program Starting up Again

Morgan Pankratz (l) and Suzi Breit are re-starting the Dylan’s Den afterschool program on Monday afternoons at 132 E. 4th Street. Neillsville student5s of any age may come to share a meal, tell about their lives and enjoy games and crafts. (Valerie Brecht/Clark County Press)

By Valerie Brecht

Two local women are teaming up to provide a positive space for young people to have fun together and support one another.

The afterschool program at Dylan’s Den, 132 E. 4th Street, Neillsville, is beginning this Monday, Jan. 7, at 4 p.m. It is open to students of all ages.

Dylan’s Den is a non-profit resource center for families that offers low cost educational and learning groups and programing. The Den was started by Suzi Breit after her son Dylan committed suicide on Nov. 20, 2016, at the age of 22. A few months after he passed, Breit decided she wanted to do something to support the young people in the community – something to honor Dylan’s memory.

“Dylan was a giver. He always took care of many children. And he saved a lot of children from suicide. And then he took his own life,” Breit said. “And he brought a lot of people into my life and new people into my life, that he wanted to make a difference.”

Breit found a way to make that difference through starting an afterschool program for kids, a place where kids could come, put down their phones, eat a meal, share about their day and have fun together.

“So, my niece was here – she was being bullied, and we wanted to get the kids to get together to have somewhere to go, to have something to do, because there’s nothing for the kids in Neillsville to do besides get in trouble,” said Breit.

From March through May 2017, Breit, her friend Mandy Krejci and other volunteers ran the afterschool program out of a storefront just off of Hewett street. The kids did different activities like crafts, games, delivering May baskets to people and visiting the nursing home. A few nights the program had close to 35 kids, with ages ranging anywhere from eight to 14.

However, after the kids went on summer break in 2017, the program was put on hold for some time. In July 2017, Dylan’s Den purchased the 4th Street property. It is a three-story former church built in 1916 that had to be renovated before it could be used. Now that renovations are complete, Breit is looking forward to the afterschool program starting up again.

“I just can’t wait for it to get started and get rolling again because we sure had a good time doing it. I enjoyed the kids and the kids had a great time.”

This time around, Morgan Pankratz will lead the group with Breit helping. The message of Dylan’s Den personally resonates with Pankratz, who has struggled with being suicidal in the past.

“I got involved because I did hear that Dylan did commit suicide and suicide is so close to me … I’ve gone in-patient multiple times and I’ve had an experience there, in an in-patient place {for mental health], that did not go so well. I was traumatized while I was there.

“So that whole experience, I kind of wanted to get involved to make my experience a positive,” she said.

Additionally, Pankratz is a certified peer specialist. She helps people with mental health, substance abuse and disorders.

“In order to be a certified peer specialist, you have to be a person that identifies with mental health issues,” explained Pankratz. “So that experience part of is huge.”

Pankratz hopes that those struggling with mental health issues or bullying will find a listening ear in her, knowing that she’s been there.”

Pankratz has several ideas for what she wants the afterschool to look like. One idea is giving the kids time to do artwork and process life, she says.

“Honestly, art has been my outlet and it’s kind of helped me heal. And it’s a way for people to express themselves in ways you normally can’t express yourself,” she said.

Pankratz and Breit also have plans to do more community service projects with the kids once the weather gets warmer.

The two emphasized that the program was about the kids doing something positive together.

“We don’t babysit – this is for kids to come learn something, make something – we’re not babysitters,” said Breit.

As the program gets going, Breit and Pankratz hope it can become a place for kids to encourage each other and build each other up. Whatever struggles they may be going through.

“We’re stronger together than alone,” Breit said.



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