Nikki Brooker strongly felt that something in the community needed to change.
The mom of three is an active parent of Bear Canyon Elementary School. She remembers the day last December when another Highlands Ranch mom shot and killed her two young sons and then herself. Two months later, a similar instance occurred where a mother shot and killed her 10-year-old daughter.
That is when Brooker took action.
“We have to start supporting our moms better,” the 42-year-old said. “It takes a village, and I want to help make that village stronger.”
Brooker, a substitute teacher in Douglas County School District, is now finalizing the nonprofit status of her organization, YANA M2M — which stands for You Are Not Alone Mom To Mom. Her mission is to create a space where moms feel safe, accepted and valued. The group meets every Wednesday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the child-care room of Burn Bootcamp, 8800 S. Colorado Blvd.
The free meetings are open-house style; moms can come and go as they please. If needed, resources for mental health are available. After filling out a questionnaire, each mom is paired with a support mom, a point of contact who will check in.
That has made all the difference for Susan Thornton, a 34-year-old Highlands Ranch mom. She and her support mom go for walks and talk through Thornton’s struggles.
“I loved the idea of being paired with another mom who has `been there, done that,’” Thornton said in an email correspondence.
Thornton first attended a YANA meeting after seeing a flier. With a history of depression, she knew she would need extra support after the birth of her son, who is now 7 months old. She was also feeling lonely and struggling to find mom friends, she said.
She describes the weekly meeting as a safe and welcoming place for her and her son.
“I highly recommend this group to local moms with young children,” she said. “Not only will they and their kids meet others and make friends, but should they need a helping hand or a listening ear, other moms are always available.”
Currently, YANA has 11 returning moms and about 50 volunteer support moms. Brooker and her six-person board of directors are working to spread the word and fundraise for future endeavors, including speakers, workshops and events. Donations can be made at yanam2m.org.
Carol Walsh, a 46-year-old mom of two, joined the board of directors because she knows from firsthand experience how crucial it is to have a support system. Her mom and sister have bipolar disorder and her father was an alcoholic. She was able to share her stories and struggles with close friends and hopes Y.A.N.A can help other moms do the same.
“I get what its like to be in the throes of dysfunction,” Walsh said. “Everybody’s got a story, but you don’t know what anybody’s story is until you get close enough.”