After Grieving, Giving

Imogen Roche

Imogen Roche

Tomorrow (Tuesday, February 26) would have been the 16th birthday of Imogen Roche, the Lower Manhattan teen who died in an accidental fall from a Tribeca fire escape last September.
Her father, Theseus Roche, and her family, will mark the occasion with an event tomorrow evening at Pier A (22 Battery Park, near the southern end of West Street), starting at 7:00 pm, which will both remember Imogen and build support to launch the foundation that is being started in her name. Admission is free, but space is limited, so Mr. Roche is asking that anyone planning to attend please R.S.V.P. by browsing:
All the friends Imogen made throughout her decade and a half in this world are invited to attend, along with their parents. Any adult or child who feels a connection to Imogen or the Roche family is welcome. The event will feature separate spaces for sharing stories, experiencing Imogen’s creative work, reflecting quietly, and celebrating with food, drink and music.

“Imogen was not done with the work that she was doing,” Mr. Roche explains, “because she was showing her peers, and everyone who knew her, how to love unconditionally. And I can’t stop doing that, either.” He recalls that at a candle-light vigil, held a few days after her passing, “I was surrounded by all of these people who loved her, and were in pain. I got to talk to dozens of her friends, and all the stories were consistent,” he notes. “The stories were that she was the one that they cried on. She was the one who put other people’s feelings ahead of her own. She was the one who looked out for kids who were suffering, or were lonely or afraid. Her teachers remembered that she would volunteer to be the first to speak or answer a question, when she knew the person next to her was afraid or nervous. One of the things that made Imogen special was her ability to connect to other people through pain. The vigil was not only cathartic and beautiful. I came away proud and inspired.”

Theseus and Imogen Roche share the podium at a 2017 ceremony marking the completion of a Manhattan Youth student film program that he founded, and in which she participated.
The Foundation that bears his daughter’s name will continue this work, “by developing and implementing workshops in active listening, compassion, empathy and mental health first aid to middle school and high school students,” Mr. Roche explains. These workshops will coalesce into a training program for teenagers to identify peers in crisis, provide appropriate peer support, and understand signs of mental health emergencies that require escalation and additional resources. All programs will take place in New York City middle school and high school advisory periods, during the school day.

“She was grounded in a morality of compassion that was bigger than I am,” he remembers. “She really had a way of living it. For a teenager, she talked a lot about empathy. She would come home sometimes carrying that weight and would talk to me about it.”

Funds now being raised will support a pilot program that will roll out this spring in one or more public middle schools within District Two, which includes Lower Manhattan. “We hope to scale the program to reach all New York City middle and high school students in the next four years,” he adds.

Imogen Roche
 The Imogen Foundation is going to support the well-being of children with programs and services.

The Imogen Foundation, “is going to be about supporting the well-being of children with programs and services. It will focus in part on humanitarian issues that she was beginning to push for as she started talking about college and a career. She talked a lot about children entangled in the legal system, whether it was kids who had been hurt, or children who needed representation because they were in the middle of family dysfunction. In all of these systems, there aren’t enough adults working to support kids in the way they need.”

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Matthew Fenton

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