Watching his daughter collapse while cheering on her high school’s football team a year ago was a life-changing moment for Oyauma Garrison, one that led him to his current position as the leader of A Kid Again.
Though Mya, now 15, is healthy and able to attend her school’s homecoming dance next month, the scare prompted Garrison to change course in his life. He left a 20-year career as an insurance executive to seek an opportunity where he could make a difference and help other children and families like his own.
He discovered A Kid Again, and its mission resonated with him.
The Columbus-based nonprofit group offers children multiple opportunities to feel like a child, and not one whose body is afflicted by a serious illness. The organization was founded in 1995 in central Ohio and has since expanded to Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Garrison’s arrival as the nonprofit’s new chief four days ago begins a new era for A Kid Again, one that will be marked by national, and eventually, international expansion.
In its 22 years, the organization has served more than 50,000 Ohio families.
A Kid Again hosts monthly events where children and families can have fun at no charge at places such as the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium or Magic Mountain. Siblings are invited and parents can chat with others in the same position.
Rhonda and Jeremy Taylor’s son, Gabriel, attended several events with his family and friends during his too-short life. Diagnosed with a metastasizing bone cancer at age 4, Gabriel died at age 6 in late 2011.
The memories Gabriel made with his parents and his sister, Sarah, are ones his family will treasure forever, his mother said.
Without the organization, the Taylors “would’ve lost out on having those memories … on the laughter and joy,” Rhonda Taylor said. “We probably would not have thought about doing the stuff we were able to do.”
The Taylors, who live in Westerville, volunteer with A Kid Again and were thrilled to hear it will expand to help more children.
As Garrison joins the organization, its previous leader, Jeffrey Damron, will stay with it as well, supporting the leadership transition.
“We appreciate one-time opportunities … but what we really appreciate is when our kids can have that consistency, to know they can anticipate another adventure,” Garrison said. “That instills hope in them.
“We want to help kids have hope, to help kids be happy and help drive their healing process,” he said.