The names you will never know

What do you think of when you see this headline?

For me, my heart breaks for this young man and his family. I think about what they must be feeling right now…the anger, the hurt and the confusion. I can’t imagine being in their shoes.  

However - and I say this with complete respect to the victim and his family - my eyes immediately drifted to the five children. Yes, children. Children who somehow got to a place in their life where they felt that this was an option, at the tender ages of 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. The news is calling them runaways and I can’t help but wonder... Why did they run away? What were they running to? Why didn't they have a home?

Once the news broke on Friday, our staff and volunteers began checking in with the police waiting to find out if we knew any of the kids involved. We don’t--which sadly only gives a small amount of relief because, after all, our mission is to protect and empower people living in distress and we didn’t reach these FIVE babies whose lives have now taken a path that could ruin them forever.

And know this, a 12 year old that willingly participates in the killing of another human being is someone living in distress. These are real kids with real problems and real trauma unlike anything you or I might have experienced in our lifetime. These are young children with real blood running through their veins and we ache for what could have been for their futures. If only we could have reached them. It is because of incidences like this that we know we are meant to continue our work for this community.

In the coming weeks we will find out more information about these children and, slowly but surely, their personal stories will leak online. For us at the West Nashville Dream Center, we will continue to protect and empower the ones we do know so that things like this stop happening. And before you feel too much despair, pain, and fear over this, let's remember that there are organizations out here working to protect one child at a time. The Metro Nashville Police are working tirelessly with organizations in the community to get kids off the streets. The Oasis Center is at it every single day to build up our youth and give them ways to cope with mental health stressors. Countless unsung heroes that we call teachers and school administrators are working on it inside and out of the classroom. Preston Taylor Ministries is educating children to give them options for their futures and a way to end their current cycle of life. Social workers are committing their entire lives to tracking children down and not allowing them to fall through the cracks. There are churches like Church of the City and Cross Point Church dedicating themselves to supporting foster kids and mentoring at risk teens at the Teen Dream Center, respectively. Caring Hearts Mexico is keeping orphans from dying in the streets. Heroes for Hope is supporting organizations both here and abroad. Bridges to Belmont is helping at-risk students go to college. The list goes on and on; more than I can count. The love and hope for this community is evident in these and many more groups.

Every one of these organizations and entities are doing their best to keeping children from being just another headline. There are thousands of volunteers supporting these organizations and many others. But mostly there are kids whose names you will never know because they are living the lives they were meant to live, quietly finding the resources and doing the hard work of becoming their best selves.

I challenge you, instead of reading the articles that break our hearts and falling into a trap of discouragement and fear, to choose an organization of which to give your time, your resources, your platform and your heart.  In honor of Kyle Yorlets, let’s work together to stop the next heart breaking headline.

If you want more information on how you can be a part of what the WNDC is doing in this community or any of the organizations mentioned above, please contact me at I can help you get connected and meet some kids we work with whose names you would never know otherwise.

TJ FletcherExecutive Director