‘The Journey Within:’ Helping Others Through Grief

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Learn more about a Renown Health nurse who formed a nonprofit to help other families through loss. 

After the unexpected loss of her young husband, a Renown Health nurse turned her grief into helping other families navigate the loss of a family member.

Jen Walker, RN, MSN, director of clinical excellence, lost her high school sweetheart and husband of eight years when he passed away in October 2015, while their two boys, age 7 and 9, lost their father.

Walker, a nurse at Renown since 2003, was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she received from the Reno community. It inspired her to want to help others in the same situation. 

“After Travis passed, the community did some amazing things for me,” Walker says. “I got really motivated to do the same thing and to give back, so that’s when I came up with starting The Journey Within.

The Journey Within organization provides support and resources for young families who have lost a close family member.

Before officially starting her organization, Walker used some of the money she received after her husband passed and personally donated to three families. And with the help of four board members, Jen officially started The Journey Within in February 2017, and they have helped six families so far. One of the board members is her sister, Anny Goff.

“She thought of creating this foundation in the darkest time of her family’s life,” Goff says. “She knew there would be other families that would need help and support and immediately wanted to help others. It showed incredible strength and courage to keep moving forward.”

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Walker’s organization supports families through financial donations, which she funds through two yearly fundraisers. The Travy Tourney is a golf tournament held in memory of Travis, and the “Let’s Toast to Travis Fundraiser” event raffles prizes and merchandise.

Along with financial support, The Journey Within helps families connect with other community resources, such as counseling and grief therapy services. Walker hopes to expand her nonprofit’s fundraising and support for families beyond the Reno-Tahoe community.

Because of her outstanding work at Renown and in the community, Walker recently received a 20 Under 40 award from the Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals Network. She has also received a Women of Achievement award, a Leader of the Quarter award and has been nominated four times for Northern Nevada Nurses of Achievement.

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“She is strong and resilient and cares a lot about people,” says Jen Richards, chief nursing officer, acute care services. “She never settles for the status quo and is always pushing our team to do better.”

In navigating her own loss and starting a nonprofit to give back, Walker has learned a lot about the community.

“I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for the community as a whole, but especially for the young community,” she says. “Seeing the young people in the community who have been willing to give back and live really selflessly has been amazing to me.”

As someone who lost her husband, helping young families who have gone through the loss of a close loved one can hit close to home for Walker, but that doesn’t stop her — it fuels her.

“That’s one of the hardest parts about doing this — it takes you back a little bit,” she says. “But it’s just a very good reminder of ‘why.’ Because when I get to talk with these families, I realize that now I am that person who is there to listen. I just want them to know that they’re talking to someone who’s been through something similar.”

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