ReelChatter of the Month

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Hi! My name is Vanessa Skovich and I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio until I left Cleveland to move to Erie, PA for college and afterward moved to Pittsburgh where I lived for about 8 years in total. I moved back to the Cleveland area about 7 years ago because I missed being able to just stop by my parent's house for a last-minute dinner. I have one younger brother who I am the complete opposite of but love dearly and I’m lucky enough to still have both of my parents and I’m so grateful for our close relationship. I went to Catholic school, I’m in a long-term relationship with Starbucks, and love anything pink or watermelon flavored!

 

My hobbies and interests are all over the place! I consider myself an extroverted introvert so there are times when I love going shopping or on an adventure completely alone and then other times when I crave connection and people. In the summer, I am a sucker for a fair; county, state, local, you name it … if there is a funnel cake stand or farm animals I’m usually itching to go! I love exploring my creative side whether that is putting together a fun outfit for a night out or heading to my local Home Goods to tap into my love of interior design. I love being outside and exploring the Metroparks just as much as I enjoy reading a new romance novel in the AC.

 

Mental health and wellness are hugely important to me! I started going to therapy early, around age 14. I knew expressing emotion was a little foreign to me but I didn’t really understand why. I also knew I was really sad sometimes and didn’t understand why. As I got older being really sad sometimes also came with being really worried and a paralyzing feeling of thinking too much and wanting to be in control to be “safe.” I recognized this in myself thanks to an extreme amount of self-awareness but I wanted to understand why and truly, I wanted it to stop. If you haven’t noticed, I like to have answers; I like things to make sense and I crave to know why. Therapy in my 30s and therapy in my teens and 20s were very different as you can imagine. As an adult, I would discover why I struggled with expressing emotion and why I was really sad sometimes. I also discovered to my dismay that it wouldn’t ever stop, that I would just learn to cope and manage those thoughts and feelings. I say all this to say, I’m certain a large part of the population has the same questions I had but maybe didn’t have the opportunity to learn the why or perhaps they were shamed for wanting to understand the why. Mental health and wellness are so important to me because I firmly believe that knowing how to process thoughts and feelings is the key to inner peace and happiness and I will always jump at the chance to talk about it because I think everyone deserves to understand how to process what they are thinking and how they are feeling.



I got involved with United Way when there was an opening on our Young Leaders team at work and today I find myself Co-Chair of Brookfield United Way Young Leaders. I didn’t know a lot about United Way at first and the fact that I didn’t know much about it meant I was someone who came from privilege. I would later learn that having breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks was not something that everyone had, that feeling full meant I was one of the lucky ones. Having my own bedroom in a warm home was not something that everyone had. I simply didn’t know that over 50% of children in Cleveland are living in poverty. I truly believe my privilege calls me to serve others who are not as fortunate.



A Kid Again is also an organization I am part of and I am a new member of their Associate Board as Co-Chair. A Kid Again is one of those organizations that warm even the chilliest of hearts. This nonprofit organization takes children with critical illnesses and the families of these children on adventures (Cedar Point, the Zoo, movie nights under the stars, major league baseball games) around the Cleveland area to give them a “time out” from their illness. The child affected with a life threatening illness and their family spend so much time in hospitals, surrounded by feeding tubes and doctors and A Kid Again gives the child a chance to be a kid again, the family a chance to see their child being a kid again, and the sibling a chance to be a kid again when they may have felt forgotten about when so often the family had to focus on the child with an illness. These adventure days are designed to be a no-cost time away, a time to forget about the hospitals, feeding tubes, and doctors.







 







Special Spaces is the last organization that I am a part of and is one of those life changers and is something I could talk about for hours! Special Spaces is a nonprofit organization with several chapters across the US that provides dream bedroom makeovers for children with cancer. In July of 2021 the volunteer coordinator from the Cleveland chapter posted on a Facebook community page that they were looking for volunteers. At this time I was looking for a way to serve and was kind of just finding my place in the world again. We were still living through a global pandemic and like many, it rocked my sense of self and my purpose. The volunteer coordinator got me connected with the Cleveland Director and right away she asked me if I would be willing to be their decorator. This was music to my ears! I could volunteer, serve my community, do something amazing for little ones AND finally apply my love for interior design to something beyond buying myself another pink decorative pillow! I was so in. Fast forward a few months and the Cleveland Director asked me to become an Associate Director which meant I would have a child’s room of my very own to design and create. I have volunteered with Special Spaces for just about a year now and have been an Associate Director for 10 months and I am now working on designing my third room! Special Spaces has given me more than I ever could have imagined and that is why I called it a life changer. Many months before finding this organization I was stuck in a cycle of “what am I doing” and “who am I” and it was followed by days of not wanting to get out of bed, days of not having the energy to brush my teeth or leave the house. Some of the darkest days of depression have been made just a little bit better because of how fulfilled I felt and how much it has given me a sense of purpose. I feel so lucky to have turned a hobby into something that is truly life-changing for these warriors battling cancer. I will never forget the first room I worked on where Luke told us, “Thank you for giving me my dream room.” Even though what we do at Special Spaces is such a small part of a child’s journey with cancer, I hope that by giving them a space to play, sleep and heal is something that they remember for life because I know I will. 















 
Community service is so important to me because I have seen firsthand what people coming together for good can do. On the days when the state of the world seems so dark, scary, and hopeless I have seen strangers from different countries, colleagues past and present, friends, family & neighbors come together to support a young child that they don’t even know. I have learned that most people want to help, they just don’t know how. I know this because when I post a child’s wish list or that I am looking for donations or a painter to paint their room, so many people jump at the chance and I think that is just beautiful.

 

Someone who has inspired me is my Dad. My Dad is one of those men who has truly sacrificed his life for his family and it took me 30+ years to see that. As an adult, I can now see that my Dad has struggled with his own mental health but has never gotten the support or care he needed to manage it. I can see the struggles in his eyes and it makes me so sad that he likely didn’t get the support he needed because he was just supposed to “be a man” and wouldn’t dare be allowed to seek out mental health care. My Dad had his own mental health struggles and still gave everything to his family. My brother and I had our own bedrooms, while he slept on the couch. My brother and I went to Catholic school while my Dad worked overtime in negative temperatures on the railroad. My brother and I grew up with everything we needed and my Dad lived with the bare minimum just so his children could have a better life. My Dad was the sole income provider because my mom had Multiple Sclerosis and couldn’t work. My Dad is retired and at 66, is now the sole caregiver for my mom. My Dad is an inspiration and he is such a good man … plenty cranky at times but a good man and I’m so grateful for him.


 
My favorite mantra that I live by is:
“If it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive”.

I have worked really hard to understand and come to terms with my mental health and some days I have had to claw my way out of a really ugly battle with it. To honor myself, I make every attempt to live my life in a way that protects the peace I have created and to leave behind things that are just too expensive.

 



People can find out more here on the organizations I am a part of:


United Way Cleveland: https://www.unitedwaycleveland.org/


Special Spaces Cleveland: https://specialspaces.org/our-chapters/ohio/

or

https://www.facebook.com/specialspacescleveland/


A Kid Again Northern Ohio: https://akidagain.org/chapter/northern-ohio-chapter/

or

https://www.facebook.com/AKidAgainNorthernOhio


My door is always open to anyone who would be interested in learning more about or volunteering in some way for any of these nonprofit organizations! Please feel free to contact me at vskovich@gmail.com!

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Do you know someone who is living her life authentically and helping uplift others?

Please nominate her for ReelChatter of the Month by e-mailing reelchatnet411@gmail.com

 

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