LA GRANGE, Ky. — Jennifer Arnold-Brazell, an intensive care nurse at Baptist Health La Grange, was on the front lines of the pandemic last year when she suffered her own loss at home.
"It was around the end of March on March 27th, I came home from work and found her unresponsive and was unable to revive her," Arnold-Brazell said Friday.
What You Need To Know
- Savannah Stephens died in 2020 at 29, following a struggle with opioid addiction
- Her mother and brother created the Savannah Smiles Foundation
- Non-profit connects families to counseling and offers activities and resources for children in Kentucky and Indiana impacted by addiction
- The foundation is holding a kickoff event in New Albany, Ind. in July
Her 29-year-old daughter, Savannah Stephens, who had battled mental illness and addiction, was gone.
"As a nurse, and coming to work and working to save others and then not being able to save my own daughter, was quite a wake-up call for me," she said.
Arnold-Brazell had a hard time finding resources for Savannah’s two little boys, who were in her care after Savannah's death, she said.
"During the pandemic, everything shut down and there weren’t counseling facilities we could go to," Arnold-Brazell said. "We didn’t have any kind of in-person meetings and support groups."
She and her son created the Savannah Smiles Foundation, which connects families to counseling and offers free online art classes, activities and other resources for children in Kentucky and Indiana impacted by a loved one’s addiction.
“A lot of times art brings people together and especially kiddos that need to have a resource and an outlet to kind of talk about things that may be a little bit hard," said Mary Arnold, Savannah's aunt and an art teacher with New Albany Floyd County Schools.
Savannah’s family said the foundation has helped them in their grief.
"More than anything it gave us a purpose," Arnold-Brazell said. "My son and I both were grieving and at the same time, trying to do work, live during a pandemic and took on the responsibility of raising two little boys."
Savannah had an "abundance of love for everyone," said her brother, Garreth Stephens.
"Just being able to carry on her legacy and share her love with the community is all we can ask for," he said.
The foundation operates on donations and is holding a kickoff event in New Albany in July.
Editor's note: Garreth Stephens is an employee for Spectrum.