CUYAHOGA FALLS — The death of a parent. The incarceration of a relative. A serious accident or illness.
These are just a few example of trauma that some children may experience. Soon, Preston Elementary School students will have a library to go to, with reference materials and books on how to best grapple with and overcome their own personal battles.
Jon, Kate and Chris Mundorf know what it is like to live through a traumatic event. Their mother, Rachel Mundorf, 38, died in 1989 of colon cancer, when they were 10, 8 and 4 respectively.
On the 30th anniversary of their mother’s death, the siblings decided to commemorate her with a special resource library in the counselor’s office at their old elementary school.
According to the information in the GoFundMe page set up to take donations for the library, it "will include an assortment of fiction and nonfiction materials for elementary school children who are experiencing some sort of trauma."
"We will also work with the faculty and staff at Preston Elementary to select games and materials that can be used to support students in times of need," according to information from the website. "In addition, we will add a carpet and comfortable seating for children to have a safe and inviting space to connect with adults they trust, during a time when they are at their most vulnerable. The books and games will be transportable from school to school within the Cuyahoga Falls School District, so resources can get to other children who need them."
Jon Mundorf said that there were virtually no resources available when he and his younger brother and sister were children, although he was quick to add that the community in general looked out for their welfare.
"We were taken care of by the community," said Jon, who today is a teacher in Florida. "We missed her of course, but we were OK. We are no longer hurting. We do know there are kids who are.
"Let’s help kids who are like us," he added. "If there’s a 10-year-old Job Mundorf today starting in fifth grade who has just lost his mother, is the school ready to deal with that? The need is substantial. Schools are places where students are loved and can be taken care of in a challenging situation."
So, the idea for creating Rachel’s Library was born.
Jon said that the siblings reached out to Kathy Moffet, who was a friend of their mother’s, and their former kindergarten teacher. Moffet, who now is on the school board, said the idea of a library to help children "is a perfect fit" as a tribute. She described Rachel as "a vibrant redhead" and someone "you wanted to know, and you were blessed to know."
"Some people come into your lives, and when they die there is eventually closure," Moffet said. "But when she died, there wasn’t that. She was so full of life. My heart still has such a big hole because she was such a wonderful person. She had so much more to give, and she died so young."
At first, the siblings were "just going to donate a little money and buy some books," Jon said. They decided to set up a GoFundMe account to see if people would be interested in donating, and set a goal of $2,000.
They doubled that goal, with more than $4,175 raised as of mid-June. Jon said that their goal was met in the first day.
But more important than money, Jon said, was that they had reconnected with people through the fundraiser.
"One thing so wonderful about past few weeks is how many people have reached out to my brother my sister and I, people telling us how she continues to impact them 30 years later," Jon said. "We’re getting just these wonderful notes about our mom before we were born, notes from people who knew us when we were kids. I think that’s a reminder to all of us that we can make an impact on people. I hope this is a way that legacy can continue on."
Kate Mundorf Johnson, who lives in Hudson and is community outreach manager at the Twinsburg Public Library, said they want to include books not just on tragedy itself, but about resiliency and succeeding.
"It’s important to see yourself in a book," Johnson said. "When I was a child, I didn’t see any books about myself. Children can go through some hard things. Books about their experiences and way to get to the other side. If we can provide children with all types of stories, where they can relate to the characters, they can talk about the character, go through the ideas the character has.
"There are so many things that different children go though. I think this will be a good resource for the counselor. Can be shared with parents for their children at home. I think it’s going to be an awesome thing."
Jon said his mother grew up in northern Minnesota and was active in Cuyahoga Falls with the PTA, the library board at the Cuyahoga Falls Library, and with First United Methodist Church.
"I just remember her being larger than life, she was full of joy," Jon said. "When she was around, people would just light up. She brought out the good in people. She was humble, and she valued other perspectives."
Moffet recalled her singing in a talent show at the church.
"She loved to sing," Moffet said. "When she finished, you just felt so happy. Her voice was a gift. She had a beautiful voice, an alto, almost a tenor. We just applauded and applauded."
Chris Mundorf, who lives in University Heights and works in public health, said he appreciated the community outreach that resulted in the fundraiser and library.
"Im very happy for all the support," Chris said. "I’m looking forward to doing what I can to honor her memory and do the project."
Jon said that over the summer, they will purchase the books, "do some painting" and add bookshelves and chairs.
"We feel this is something that she would be proud of," said Jon. "We believe real strongly our mom lives in in us. Three of her granddaughters have her name as part of their name. She made an impact on the community. This is our way of honoring a community she cared about a whole lot."
For details, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/RachelsLibrary online.
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @AprilKHelms_RPC