USC mother creates parent Facebook group for student support

Therese Kelley hasn’t slept much in the past week. 

Kelley hasn’t turned her phone off since her son’s friend and fraternity brother died while at school at USC last week. While her son’s been grieving and going to a funeral and vigil, Kelley is thousands of miles away at their home in Charlotte, N.C., waiting for calls and texts to see how he’s doing.

Even though her family is close and communicates often, Kelley said it’s been hard not seeing him as he grapples with tragedy. So when she came across the Local USC Moms and Dads on Call Facebook page that Rory Bennett, an alumna and mother of a current senior, created to offer support to students, she joined right away.

“I’m 3,000 miles away and [with] everything that was going on, you start to feel very helpless,” Kelley said. “And then when you have moms, parents who are saying ‘We get it, and we don’t want our students to feel this way’ … I responded immediately.” 

And Kelley wasn’t the only parent who wanted to make sure her children had support. Since Bennett started the page last Tuesday, nearly 1,400 parents and students have joined. Bennett said she sees the group as a “safety net” for students to know that, even if they aren’t close to their families or if they live miles away from them, they have adults to reach out to who can check up on them, give them advice or help them find resources on campus. 

The group doesn’t aim to replace professional mental health services or other resources students may need, but Bennett said she hopes it can help students get the support they need when they are looking for advice on a school project or need someone to talk to or check up on them when they or their parents think they need someone to talk with. 

“I come from the feeling like if the kids need something, we’re going to beat down the doors to be there,” Bennett said. “If somebody is reaching out and needs help, call me a helicopter parent, I don’t care — I’m going to be there in force with whatever a kid needs.” 

The group is also hosting its first event Tuesday afternoon on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Hoover Street called Cookies and Cupcakes to give students baked goods and spread the word about the group. 

“[We want] to let these kids know that there are local parents, both moms and dads, that are here to help,” said Gina Eckstein, a mother who helped plan the event. “If they’re stuck in a bind or if they need somebody to talk with … just so that they feel that there’s a support system nearby.”

Even though she can talk to her son often, Kelley is comforted knowing there are adults nearby who can check on him when she can’t. 

“I am actually able to go to sleep tonight, knowing that if I had to pick up the phone or send a message to this group, somebody would be at my son’s door, banging that door down if he was at risk, or reaching out to him to give him a hug,” Kelley said. “That is what, ultimately for a parent, can make the difference between being here today or not being here tomorrow.“