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'It Starts With Me WyCo' campaign in Wyandotte County to raise awareness on trauma, resilience

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-01 14:31:27-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Drivers who pass through Minnesota Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, will notice orange and green ribbons tied around tree trunks.

It's a visual representation of the struggles and resilience of those in Wyandotte County.

“We are living in a time where violence is really high, where suicides are high, depression, anxiety… But we keep a lid on it," Chandra Green, the director at Alive & Thrive, said. "So if we begin to talk about it, the people who are experiencing those things may feel a little bit freer seeking help."

Alive & Thrive Wyandotte County, in partnership with Remarkably Resilient, launched a trauma and resilience awareness campaign called “It Starts With Me WyCo.”

It's designed to draw attention to the effects trauma has on people’s health and how healing can be found.

“There’s a lot of trauma because economically, we’ve been disenfranchised," Green said. "There’s a lot of trauma because we don’t have the resources that other communities may have, and when it comes to getting those resources, sometimes we don’t get our share or they are withheld for whatever reasons."

Part of the campaign will feature a community-wide survey that will ask eight questions for residents to answer about how they find healing from trauma.

All participants will be entered in a drawing for three prizes: $50 gas card, $30 gas card and a $20 gas card.

“We’ll create little cards from the surveys that are done through this campaign and we’ll disperse them to different businesses and they’ll be available in different areas of Wyandotte County,” Green said.

Each card will feature one tip from a resident about what they do to heal from trauma or what they do to help others heal.

Ray Freeman, who lives and works in Wyandotte County, says campaigns like this make a big difference.

“Silent suffering is tricky because at some point, you almost don’t even want the help, right? But my biggest advice would be to reach out to whoever you consider your support,” Freeman said,

Freeman’s story dates back to when he was just 12-years-old.

His mother lost her parental rights to him and his three sisters, sending them through years of foster care.

As he grew into adulthood, the reunion never came. Navigating confidence, the pain of neglect and the stigmas of foster care became trauma.

“Looking back on those days and trying to dissect those moments and really understanding how they affect me as an adult, and trying to you know reverse engineer that if at all possible,” Freeman said.

One of the greatest things Freeman found comfort and support in was Brazilian jujitsu, which helped him compartmentalize his trauma.

He remembers the exact day and moment when his healing began.

"I can pinpoint it exactly — the day that I first got choked out on these mats,” Freeman said. “For one, I never wanted to feel like that again. Never ever want to feel like I’m just drowning. And I realized I had had been feeling that way in my past. I’ve been feeling like I was drowning. Coming to that gym the next day was even more eye-opening because it proved to me that I could walk through the fires.”

He went on to train and open his own jujitsu gym where he teaches his students for free.

Freeman says from the trauma to healing, jujitsu has made it possible for him to come full circle.

“I get paid in their smiles, I get paid in their stories, I get paid in their successes, because I know that that’s what I needed when I was their age,” Freeman said.