The Spinal Column

Words of Hope 4 Life advocating for mental health, wellness of local kids

From left, Glen Schwartz, Nikki O’Donnell and Sue Dumond, chairwoman of the board for Words of Hope 4 Life, are pictured inside The Rail, which is expected to officially open next month.

From left, Glen Schwartz, Nikki O’Donnell and Sue Dumond, chairwoman of the board for Words of Hope 4 Life, are pictured inside The Rail, which is expected to officially open next month.

The creators behind Viewspire are continuing their mission to reimagine mental health through their newest initiative, Words of Hope 4 Life’s The Rail.

Tucked away in a complex of office space in Commerce Township, a vape shop turned community center has been transformed into The Rail, a brick-and-mortar space for people of all ages to come together, decompress, make community connections, participate in scheduled activities/events, and feel safe, both physically and emotionally.

Glen Schwartz and Nikki O’Donnell are the creative minds behind The Rail, which is an outreach project of their other mental health initiative, Viewspire. Launched last year, Viewspire aims to reimagine the way we think of mental health through views and whimsical images to make mental health care positively accepted and accessible to anyone.

In October, Viewspire held their inaugural premier event, Viewfest at Walled Lake Central High School. Nearly 5,000 people were in attendance to participate in the event, which featured a wide range of more than 60 activities that incorporated the five pillars of mental health. The mission was to provide individuals with the tools necessary to take care of their mental health.

Shortly after Viewfest, the not-for-profit Words of Hope 4 Life was born, with a focus on suicide intervention and prevention.

“We knew after doing Viewfest that we could do more, we would have more power and more reach if we were doing it as a not-for-profit,” O’Donnell said. “I wrote a grant…We were going to open a physical location and it will serve the greater vision of suicide prevention and youth, and then everything happened with Oxford.”

Through The Rail, community members and local youth will have a safe space to go for support. Its name and mission stems from four of the five pillars of mental health: relaxation and mindfulness, ability to give to and serve others, interconnection to community, and learning new skills, or R.A.I.L.

“It means a lot to me because my background stems from the railroad industry. There are also other connections, like stay on track and the crossroads of life.” Schwartz said. “We will adapt to whatever’s needed, we just want it to be a fun space that kids will come to and make a connection to the community.”

Schwartz’s sons, Avery, 10, and Ari, 8, as well as O’Donnell’s son, Zaine, 9, have been largely involved in the process of transforming the space and creating The Rail. “[Kids] are who we are trying to build this world to be good for, so it’s cool that they already get to be such a big part of this project,” Schwartz said.

Viewspire products and apparel will be available for purchase at The Rail, as well as other eclectic items from local artists, including things like clothing and jewelry. “The Hopper”, located inside The Rail, will serve as a design launchpad and print studio. Equipped with the ability to create custom-branded t-shirts for organizations, clubs and events, proceeds from the studio will directly support their ongoing mental health initiatives.

One of the designs available include their “Words of Hope” shirts, available in both t-shirt and sweatshirt options. A simple design, the white shirt is meant to be filled in with words of hope, literally, by friends, peers and members of the community.

After the tragedy at Oxford High School on November 30, Schwartz and O’Donnell handed out 400 Words of Hope shirts to students at post-crisis community support events. Written messages read things like “be a light”, “stay strong” and “you matter.”

Viewpoint Psychology and Wellness, which Schwartz owns and where O’Donnell is a child psychologist, brought six clinicians, as well as a set of volunteers, to the Legacy Center, a massive entertainment complex that’s now considered ground zero in the community’s effort to recover from the trauma of the school shooting.

Part of the mission of Words of Hope 4 Life is to develop and implement new and innovative ways to integrate mental wellness into communities, specifically but not limited to, during times of crisis.

“We decided that we wanted to be a post-crisis community support and intervention. If there’s a suicide or traumatic event that occurs, we will go and we will hand out shirts and resources,” O’Donnell said. “It’s like group support that all hinges on the four main pillars of mental health. The biggest one for post-tragedy is the interconnection to community, that’s what is benefiting Oxford the most right now, that come together. We’re not just there doing arbitrary activities, they’re very purposeful, therapeutic activities we can do together that aren’t as overwhelming as therapy can be, especially after a tragedy.”

In addition to their Words of Hope shirts, Viewspire also created an Oxford Strong/Oakland Together design printed on shirts and sweatshirts, as well as an Oakland County United, and Stronger Together design.

O’Donnell created the designs herself.

“I grew up in Lake Orion/Oxford. After the shooting, I was talking to friends all night and telling them how I felt so helpless. I woke up in the middle of the night and had this picture in my head. It was a sweatshirt and it had a ribbon on it, but it looked different than other designs I had seen. I designed it that night and sent it to Glen. I said, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with this, but here you go.’”

All of the designs, which are available on both t-shirts and sweatshirts, are available for purchase through Viewspire or at The Rail. Profits will be donated to Oakland County mental health initiatives.

“It’s all been kind of serendipitous this whole way through,” O’Donnell said. “We’re creating something and we feel driven to do it, but we don’t yet see where it goes or what it’s for, then this happens. This makes sense, this is the place for it.”

The Rail is expected to officially open sometime next month at 2071 East West Maple Road (E503) in Commerce Township. For more information, visit or find Words of Hope 4 Life, Inc. on Facebook.

One response to “Words of Hope 4 Life advocating for mental health, wellness of local kids”

  1. Audrey Furlotte says:

    Great article about Words of Hope 4 Life. We need to take care of this younger generation and help them face their struggles. Keep up the good work.

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