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How Trees of Hope are helping families dealing with mental health among children

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A small, shaded corner of Byrd Park lined with benches is one of Tom Leahy's favorite places in Richmond.

“We are here at Trees of Hope in Byrd Park," said Tom. “I come out here on a regular basis just to look and feel the vibe.”

The small circular garden is just a few hundred feet from Boat Lake. It is a visual reminder of a cause he is passionate about.

“We have discovered that mental illness in children is a huge issue in this country," said Tom.

Tom and his wife Diana established Beacon Tree Foundation in 2008.

“It doesn’t discriminate and it affects every walk of life," he said.

The non-profit Beacon Tree helps families with children struggling with mental health issues by providing financial resources and advocating for the family.

“When you have a child in crisis you don’t know how important it is to reach out and get help immediately," said Tom.

Tom

Tom Leahy

Mental health is an issue close to the Leahy’s hearts.

“All three of my girls were affected in one way or another with mental illness,” he explained.

The Leahy’s also launched Beacon Tree to curb suicide rates and eliminate the stigma attached to mental health.

“You know we talk about preventative health care we need to embrace preventative mental health care," Tom added.

Three years ago the Leahy’s planted the first Tree of Hope in Byrd Park as a place of peace, mediation and remembrance.

"I think the whole process and foundation has been cathartic and therapeutic," he said.

A growing brick walkway commemorates young people who battled mental illness like Cameron Gallagher and Charles Rogers. There are also bricks to soldiers battling PTSD.

The brick walkway commemorates young people who battled mental illness.

The brick walkway commemorates young people who battled mental illness.

Trees of Hope is a tangible reminder of Beacon Tree’s mission. The next time you’re passing through Byrd Park you just might see Tom enjoying his home away from home.

“This is really our office. This is where we reside and this is where we live because of the trees and because of what it represents for the hope that we give families," said Tom.

The next event benefitting Beacon Tree Foundation is the group's Kick Stigma Kickball Tournament at Bon Secours Redskins Training Facility in Richmond on October 1. For more information click here.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

Heroes Among Us -- Heroes@WTVR.com