Rich and Allene Young were inspired to start the group after adopting their own granddaughter in 2018.

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Seven years ago, Rich and Allene Young were looking forward to their retirement when their world turned upside down. The need arose for them to care for their 5-month-old granddaughter Sebellah as their own daughter struggled with addiction and substance abuse. At the time, the couple was working full time, and the idea of raising another child after so many years was daunting. 

"Raising a grandchild is so overwhelming, especially in the beginning," Rich told Southern Living. "That moment of needing to take on the role of raising a grandchild always come in a moment of crisis, and the experience of raising a grandchild is a journey that involves a paradox of emotions and experiences."

Rich and Allene, who were living in Arizona at the time, say they felt very alone. They had no idea how many other grandparents were facing a similar situation. Once they found out, they knew they had to bring everyone together, so they started a support group in 2018.

"Grandparents came into the group and expressed a big sigh of relief," Rich said. "It's exciting to see grandparents' faces light up when someone else shares something that they have experienced."

Recently, Sebellah turned 7. A lot has changed since she landed in her grandparents' arms at only 5 months old. In 2018, after years of caring for Sebellah, Rich and Allene were finally granted formal adoption. A year later, Sebellah's mother lost her life to an overdose. The same year, the family of three decided to downsize and relocate to Mount Airy, North Carolina, so they could spend more time with Sebellah.    

Grandparents hold granddaughter next to judge on adoption day
Rich and Allene Young with their granddaughter Sebellah on her adoption day in May 2018.
| Credit: Courtesy of Rich and Allene Young

Leaving their support system behind in Arizona was difficult, but the couple was determined to build a similar community in their new home. They formed Mount Airy Grands as a result. The goal of the group, which meets virtually every month, is to provide a safe space for grandparents to share their stories, connect with other grandparents, and get the support that they and their grandchildren need.

"The blessings associated with raising a grandchild outweigh the challenges, but the challenges are great," Rich said. "As great as the challenges are, we cannot imagine our lives without Sebellah in it and see her as such a blessing in our lives."