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1280 S Alpine Rd, Rockford, IL 61108

Laura Kane 

Chief Executive Director

Laura Kane and Zachary

Laura Kane started Marshmallow’s Hope in memory of her son

Zachary Ryan Birkholz, a 14 year old Harlem Freshman, died by suicide in 2018. Sadly, Laura was unaware that her child was suffering in silence. Depression and Suicide were foreign topics to her until the tragedy of these silent killers affected her in the worst way.

After Zachary’s death, she began to post motivational messages on social media through her son’s Snapchat Shadow313zc and on her personal Facebook. Her goal was to encourage kids in the community to reach out for help and stay alive. But to her surprise, kids began to open up to her about their own struggles with depression, anxiety, trauma from abuse, their battle with self harm, addiction, and suicidal ideations. Parents of hurting children also began to reach out to her for help.

She began to educate herself on these topics and quickly realized that our community has a huge need for resources to help kids who are struggling and need mental health related services. She knew that she had to make a change for these kids and help in a big way, thus the birth of Marshmallow’s HOPE.

Laura is committed to helping aid the youth in our community. She believes that if we offer mentorship and support, it will help lessen drug addiction as kids who are struggling often self medicate; it will lessen crime rates as kids turn to crime to come up with money to self medicate; and more importantly, it will help the youth in our community learn that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to reach out. They don’t have to suffer in silence or alone!

Her commitment is to help kids like her son Zachary stay alive and live out their purpose as no parent should ever have to go through this type of pain. She is committed to helping survivor families as well, as she knows that the journey is a difficult one and offers them her support.

Her promise to the community and especially to all the Mother’s out there who are missing their babies, is that she won’t stop fighting this battle. She will raise awareness, be an advocate, and help break the stigma that surrounds mental illness, while educating parents and kids in the topics of the importance of mental health in hopes of preventing more suicides.

This organization will aid hurting children like Zachary and his story will continue to bring positivity to our community through his mother’s perseverance. The love for her children is what drives her.

Thank you Laura for your leadership as our Executive Director!