About Us

In 2000, Doug and Julie Stotlar’s 6 year old daughter, Lauren, was killed in a tragic school bus accident. They looked for grief support but found that what was available in the community, primarily support groups and individual therapy, didn’t completely meet their needs. Along the way, the Stotlars found that the most meaningful support was connecting individually with other families who had been through a similar loss. In an effort to help others and build hope out of their own tragedy, the Stotlars, with the help of a Licensed grief professional and a host of dedicated family and friends, founded the kite network, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) to support others whose lives have also been darkened by grief. With support from a community of individual and corporate donors, the kite network has since trained a cadre of Peer Counselors, all of whom have experienced a loss in their own lives and rebuilt their lives after loss, and has provided support for individuals grieving the loss of children, parents, siblings, close friends, and other loved ones.

Recognizing the need for grief services beyond peer-to-peer support, the kite network has since developed a range of resources, referrals and services to expand its community impact and help build our community’s capacity to support individuals in grief. Building on its grief expertise, the kite network also offers workshop and training to businesses, schools, religious organizations, and other community groups in order to increase our community’s grief compassion and to teach others how to support individuals in grief.

If you or someone you love is in grief and need information, support or resources, click here.

If you are interested in our business or community presentations or workshops click here.

 

the kite network is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization that provides resources and support to individuals in grief, as well as those who surround them, in order to build a community that promotes healthy grieving and healing.

We recognize and honor the fact that each grief journey is unique.
We believe compassionate listening offers empowering insights on the path toward rebuilding life after loss.
Our services are free of charge.

You don’t need to grieve alone.

 

Meet the Executive Team

Amy Friedman Milanovich – MPH, Executive Director

Amy Friedman Milanovich

Amy joined the kite network in 2015 as our Executive Director, with the charge of leading the growth of the organization, as well as service development and community outreach. As a long time employee with the University of Michigan School of Public Health, Amy brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team, specifically in strategic planning, program development, and donor relations. Through her work with the university and other local and national nonprofits, she has dedicated her career to helping improve the lives of those in need. Amy holds a Masters of Public Health from Tulane University and a Bachelors in Sociology from Brandeis University.

Christy Miller, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W. – Program Director

Christy Miller

Christy is the key to the kite network counselors’ thoughtful and sincere efforts to support our clients. Christy is a licensed clinical social worker and has over 20 years of experience as a psychotherapist for individuals, groups and families. She provides a talented and professional perspective and ability as she trains and guides our peer counselors to help our clients appropriately. Christy is responsible for overseeing all clinical aspects of this organization, including screening potential clients and counselors, initial counselor training, maintaining continuing education modules, and performing case reviews on a regular basis.

We are honored to have Christy as our trusted guide as she helps us help others acclimate to their grief journeys.

Melissa Antoncic, L.M.S.W. – Grief Services Coordinator

Melissa Antoncic has both personal and professional experience with grief and grief support. She is a cancer survivor and First Connection volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, where she provides support to newly diagnosed leukemia patients. As a Grief Services Coordinator, Melissa provides both anticipatory grief and bereavement support for family members of Arbor Hospice patients and members of the community. Melissa became involved with the kite network to ensure that the needs of individuals in all stages of grief are being met. the kite network is honored to fill this unique niche in the southeast Michigan community.

Jen Barba – Treasurer

Jen Barba

Jen’s background as a CPA both in Public Accounting and with General Motors Corporation provide her with the skills necessary to take on the challenges of being a treasurer at a non-profit organization. Knowing that not everyone enjoys the work performed by accountants, she sees this as an opportunity to help, albeit indirectly, those who are on their grief journey and at the same time continue to spread the word about the exceptional quality of the counseling model and effective services offered by the kite network.

Doug & Julie Stotlar – Founders

Doug & Julie Stotlar

Julie and Doug Stotlar lost their six-year-old daughter, Lauren, in March 2000. They honor her memory with the kite network. They know that grief is not an illness, and that all loss deserves support. Providing a compassionate presence on the journey heals both the peer counselor and the person fresh in grief.

KIM

I had one sibling – a brother. His name was Bob. He was six years older than me. Bob and I were very close, both growing up and as adults. Our parents divorced when I was eight and he was 14. Bob took on a caretaker role with me. He was very protective of me. Bob was wicked smart, too! He was valedictorian of his high school class and went on to the University of Michigan and then to Harvard Law School. Bob was a lawyer in San Diego. He was an awesome lawyer, and he loved his work. He was especially proud of his pro bono work and did a lot of it for an organization called Children of the Night.

On May 11, 2012, I got the phone call that my brother had passed away. He was not sick, and my mother had spoken to him earlier that day. After some minor outpatient surgery, he went to bed in the guest bedroom of his home. His wife found him dead the next day. His cause of death was unclear … perhaps a deadly mixture of drugs and anesthesia, or perhaps a sleep apnea episode, or maybe both.

It was late at night when I received the horrific phone call. It was an out-of-body experience. I can’t explain the extent of the pain, nor the shock, nor the feeling of helplessness. I had to break the news to both my mother and father.

I’ve spent two years trying to learn how to cope with the loss of my brother and only sibling. The hole in my heart will always be there, but the edges have begun to soften. That’s the best way I can describe it.

I was attending a sibling grief support group for the first year, and it was helping me tremendously. Then one day, I attended a movie at the Ann Arbor Theater called Transforming Loss. One of the sponsors of this event was the kite network. I researched the kite network, and I liked what I found. I wished I had found them earlier, so that I could have taken advantage of their services during my early grief. About six months after my brother died, I had a good friend who lost her sister. She and I helped each other and spent a lot of time talking, crying and hashing through our grief. I realized I was at a point where I was able to talk to other people about their grief, and they seemed to be comforted to some degree. This process was also very helpful for me. I can’t explain why, but it was. It was then that I decided to investigate becoming a grief support peer counselor.

It’s difficult to find appropriate grief support groups, and one-on-one therapy can be very costly. The kite network provides one-on-one support from someone who has experienced a similar loss. The peer counselor is there for the sole purpose of supporting the grieving client and listening. Usually the peer counselor and the grieving client meet once a week for a whole year, and the purpose of the meetings is not to “share” grief. The client is the focus and, for the most part, leads the sessions in the direction he or she wishes. Often, a grieving person feels that he or she has “exhausted” any available “listeners.” This is a huge benefit of the kite network services because the client knows he or she can count on that peer counselor to be there on a consistent basis.