Often, life presents us with situations we are not prepared for. It is times like these that test our inner strength and willpower, a lack of which could send our lives down hill once and for all. Kevin de Toledo’s grandparents faced a similar sort of situation when their daughter ended her life after fighting a short, but lonely battle of depression. All she left was her 8 year old son, Kevin. His grandparents, Ginette and Andre de Toledo, took the decision which most grandparents would under such circumstance. They took over his custody. However, they soon found that raising an 8 year kid at such an age was not going to be easy at all. Not only were they sharing a huge responsibility of a kid who had his whole life ahead of him, but also had to make some quick emotional adjustments. It soon started to have an effect on their marriage as well as health. And all Sylvie de Toledo, their second daughter, could do was watch all that happening in front of her eyes and do nothing about it.
Amidst all this, Kevin was going through some serious emotional issues, which began to haunt him, especially in his teenage years. “Kevin was a difficult teenager,” said Sylvie, who is now a social worker. “The trauma and grief and loss of a parent abandoning you, so to speak, it’s a huge, huge loss.” It was during this very period that Sylvie found that a lot of her co-workers were dealing with a similar situation. They were all fighting a lonely battle, believing that there are people around them who are in the same situation. That’s when she decided to do something about it, so that these struggling and grieving families could be brought together. She began by holding a support group. Initially, the number in attendance was 10, but soon started to skyrocket and led her to start a non-profit organization called Grandparents As Parents.
Today, more than 25 years later, the non-profit has 20 support groups under it’s belt with more than 3,000 families being provided financial, legal, and emotional support by it. And the interesting fact about it is that a majority of the caregivers of this community are grandparents. However, the non-profit is extending its help to assist aunts, uncles, siblings, and other close relatives and friends as well, who are facing a similar situation that Sylvie’s parents once had. The group is also making special efforts to provide psychological, educational, and medical support to children. It is these very efforts that have transformed the community into a big happy family.
Sylvie, however, believes that the real heroes are these grandparents who deserve every bit of recognition and support for virtually sacrificing their lives for their grandkids, which is what Grandparents As Parents stands for as an organization.
We hope people across the globe take a page out of her efforts and give grandparents the respect and love they truly deserve.