Author: Stroll Gates Mills

For the past 170 years, Beech Brook has followed a guiding principle that all children deserve the chance to grow up in safe and healthy families with the support they need to reach their full potential. Their work has changed as the times and needs of families have changed, but that belief remains at the heart of its mission: Helping children and families thrive by promoting healthy child development, strengthening the ability to overcome adversity, and enhancing family health and stability.

Today, Beech Brook serves more than 8,000 children and families each year through a broad range of mental health, foster care, prevention, and early intervention programs, all of which brings healing to troubled children, strengthens and supports parents, and plants the seeds of hope for a brighter future.

Beech Brook aims to keep families intact and children with their parents at home. But when children must be removed from the custody of their birth parent(s), Beech Brook’s foster parents and adoptive homes provide caring families to nurture and support them as they cope with the trauma they’ve experienced. Currently, there are over 16,000 children in Ohio’s foster care system – and only 7,200 licensed foster families. Because the need is so great, Beech Brook is always recruiting new foster parents who can provide a loving home for these vulnerable children.

Despite the foster parents’ best efforts, “holidays can be especially hard for foster youth,” says Tom Royer, CEO and President of Beech Brook, whose sister, Kelli Guhde, and daughter, Brittany Royer, are Gates Mills residents. “Foster children are missing what makes the holidays special for so many of us. Holiday traditions help build a strong bond between a person’s family and their community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. They connect us to our history and help us celebrate generations of family. But for many foster children, the holidays can bring on a sense of loss. Lost family and lost community.”

Beech Brook understands what these vulnerable children and youth are going through and specializes in the highest levels of foster care, caring for children and youth who have suffered the most trauma and have the most challenging behaviors. Many of these children may be reunited with their own family or adopted by a “forever family.” Some other children stay with foster families for years and transition into adulthood without a forever family. ”Regardless of their path, it is our job, collectively, to prepare these children and youth for whatever the future brings,” Royer says.

One community organization that understands the importance of caring for our foster children is Ohio State Waterproofing. For more than 25 years, the company’s CEO, Nick DiCello, has played “Santa,” or affectionately referred to as “St. Nick” for children at Beech Brook. He and his family, along with others from his company, personally shop for and wrap holiday gifts for each of Beech Brook’s foster children and host a catered dinner for them and their foster parents. For the past two years, the in-person dinner was put on hiatus due to COVID-19, but Ohio State Waterproofing’s generosity was not – they continued to provide gifts to the children during a time that was particularly stressful for foster parents and the children in foster care.

This year, the tradition continued with an in-person gathering where close to 30 children received gifts – everything from dolls and blankets to UGG boots and Sony PlayStations. Beech Brook’s Senior Director of Foster Care, Kim Weltman, said, “We are infinitely grateful for the many years of Ohio State Waterproofing’s support. Their generosity brightens up the holidays for the foster children in our care.”

Erika Lacroix, Nick DiCello’s daughter, and her three children (Nick’s grandchildren), Alex (6th grade), AJ (10th grade), and André (12th grade) attended the event with friends and helped pass out gifts. All three boys are students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, and Erika is an alum of the school as well. Erika said, “This night is always a highlight of our holiday season, such a heart-warming experience for all.” She encourages her children to volunteer their time and make donations to those in need because she tells them, “With your blessings, comes responsibility.”

This story was shared with a case manager about one of the children who received a gift:

Despite all he has been through, he still believes in Santa Claus! He was so excited to come to the party and asked me several times if the REAL Santa Claus would be coming. He was sure that he heard the reindeer and the sleigh bells. When I told him that the real Santa Claus could not come because he was too busy this close to Christmas, he wanted to talk to his “helper” St Nick. He asked him several questions about being an elf and how he got to the party (wondering if he came on the sleigh). Nick, of course, did a wonderful job talking to him and answering all his questions. He said he will know if Santa Claus is real if he gets the one toy he has been asking Santa Claus about in his dreams. When St. Nick called his name, he brought the gift back to his table to open it. He let out a huge squeal and was so excited because he got the toy he was dreaming about. He came up to me and said,

“I told you. There really is a Santa Claus. I knew it!”

For a child who has suffered so much in his life, to know that someone cared enough about him to get him the one thing he wanted is truly the spirit of Christmas.

With the help of staff, foster parents, and community support, Beech Brook is able to touch hearts and change lives for generations to come.Beech Brook’s mission: Helping children and families thrive by promoting healthy child development, strengthening the ability to overcome adversity, and enhancing family health and stability. To learn more, visit

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