Our staff at Youth Bridge is passionate about helping children. Few are more devoted than our CEO, Darryl Rhoda. His father returned from the Korean War with post-traumatic stress disorder. In those days, PTSD treatment did not exist so the veteran self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. This path lead to Darryl and his siblings being taken out of the home and put into the foster care system.
“The passion I have for helping kids is because I have experienced the systems in Arkansas as a child,” he said. “I’ve got siblings who’ve been through the juvenile justice system. It’s not a good system. I know almost exactly what these children are experiencing who go through those systems. In most cases, these kids just want a normal life. They want parents that care about them; adults that care about them. We’ve got to figure out a way to give them what they’re not getting. That trauma leads them down paths of crime or mental health issues.”
Darryl cites the trauma that his siblings endured as a main driver of his empathy towards our clients.
“In my case, because of what I have seen through the system, I’ve felt what they feel,” he said. “When I go into a residential program, I don’t know the child but I feel their pain. I’ve been in that situation or I know someone who has. I’ve got siblings who’ve experienced major trauma. I’ve seen it. I feel it. I’ve devoted my life to seeing what I can do to improve the situation for children in Arkansas.”
The mission at Youth Bridge is to serve kids, regardless of race, sex, religion, socioeconomic status – any child that has a situation we can help with. Our services help those who have been abused, traumatized or neglected and results of that such as mental illness, substance abuse or emergency housing. Darryl spends a lot of time partnering with other agencies to promote our cause to legislators in Little Rock. While he feels progress has been made, there’s still a long way to go. But no matter what, he’ll make sure Youth Bridge is there to help children in need.
“At this agency, what we do is vital work,” he said. “Every day I pray I make the right decisions that will affect these kids. Their lives are in our hands. Their whole future lies ahead of them and they’re at a very important junction in their life. We are trying to help heal them.”