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Help Somebody Spotlight: Beth Ayn Stansfield, Founder, Stay Strong Virginia

The Help Somebody Hall of Fame celebrates and recognizes good people doing good work in RVA.  We encourage our readers to nominate nonprofit staff, volunteers, board members and community members who are making a positive difference.

In December, we are recognizing Beth Ayn Stansfield, who is the founder of Stay Strong Virginia – a nonprofit whose mission is to expand and enhance the existing services to those impacted by an eating disorder in the State of Virginia by raising awareness, education and providing direct support with respect and empathy.

Joanne Paek, a volunteer with Stay Strong Virginia, nominated Beth Ayn, saying, “I first met Beth Ayn after my daughter, who was 14 at the time, had been diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.  I had been staying in Durham, NC for four months with my daughter while she was receiving treatment for her eating disorder and I had heard about Beth Ayn’s organization.  My husband and I started going to her support group and every month we would learn more and more about eating disorders and how to support our daughter, and ourselves, through such a grueling, difficult illness.  Beth Ayn has always, and remains to be, such a calm guiding force to me and always makes herself available to answer questions, share insight or simply listen.  Her guidance when my daughter needed to go back to residential treatment for a second time was invaluable.  She breathes positivity and hope wherever she goes, two things that amongst the chaos eating disorders bring to families is often hard to find.”

Read more about Beth Ayn below:

How does Beth Ayn demonstrate the spirit of the “Help Somebody Hall of Fame”?

Beth Ayn Stansfield is tenacious and energetic; her positivity and zest for life is remarkable. Yet her passion and determination to help and support others is what sets her apart from the crowd. Several years ago, Beth Ayn’s daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder. While desperately seeking help for her daughter, Beth Ayn found a distinct lack of resources and treatment options in the Richmond area. After spending several months with her daughter at a treatment centre in Denver, Colorado and enduring the difficult, lonely and painful journey of being the parent of a child with an eating disorder, she felt compelled to help others who found themselves in a similar position and founded the non-profit, Stay Strong Virginia, whose mission is to raise awareness, educate and support those either living with, or supporting those suffering from, eating disorders.

Beth Ayn is a true beacon of hope for family members embarking on the journey of having a loved one diagnosed with an eating disorder, a constant pillar of strength and support for family members who are in the midst of finding appropriate treatment options for their loved one, and a dedicated source of encouragement for those with family members in recovery.

What is the impact of Beth Ayn’s generosity?

What started out as an initial support group for a handful of families has since grown over the past 6 years into a successful and invaluable organization. In addition to offering bi-monthly family support groups, community outreach events and education sessions, Beth Ayn has worked tirelessly to recently implement The Body Positive program into local schools. This after school program examines body image and eating disorders in a collaborative and supportive environment and has been strongly associated with greater emotional well-being and lower levels of anxiety for students who participate.

Beth Ayn is committed, and dedicated, to securing grants and other fundraising initiatives in order to expand the program to even more schools in the Greater Richmond area. Beth Ayn travels to, and works with, residential treatment centers and clinicians across the country to stay abreast of the latest evidence-based research, treatment options and interventions available for treating eating disorders. She strives to bring national and international eating disorder specialists to Richmond in order to further educate families, counseling professionals, school teachers, school counselors and nursing professionals about these deadly disorders.

Beth Ayn’s enthusiasm and dedication is contagious. It is difficult to be in her presence and not got enthused about her work and her vision for the future of Stay Strong Virginia. It is hard to quantify the impact Beth Ayn has on the local community but to those who have the privilege of knowing her and being the recipients of her knowledge and wisdom about eating disorder treatment, her expertise and support is invaluable.

Her energy astounds me, whether she is running support groups, arranging for national speakers to come to Richmond to offer further education on eating disorders, visiting treatment centers or floating down the James River in an effort to raise awareness and fundraise for Stay Strong Virginia, everything she does is for the benefit of families who are impacted by eating disorders.  She really is a truly remarkable, selfless, giving woman and an inspiration to all who know her.

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