Abbey’s Bakery: Grief into Hope into Action
I first met Jon and Michelle Wolf and their family in 2021 at the NAMI Stride 5K Walk to End Mental Health Stigma in Bucks County, PA. I was there with a crew filming a profile of Nick Emeigh, Associate Executive Director of NAMI Bucks County, PA (aka NAMI MAN, the world’s only mental health superhero). Nick introduced me to the Abbey’s Bakery crew of family members and friends.
They were all there for Abbey. One year earlier, Abbey—Michelle and Jon’s daughter, Kayla and David’s sister, Andrea and Jim’s niece—died by suicide. She was 14 years old.
At this first meeting, the family was raw and understandably emotional, but even in their grief, they wanted to share Abbey’s story. They told me that NAMI had been a tremendous help in their very difficult days, and they wanted to share Abbey’s story in hopes of helping others. They also shared with me their vision for Abbey’s Bakery. I remember feeling deep, deep sadness for the Wolf family. I also remember thinking that I’d like to return one day to learn more about Abbey’s Bakery.
Fast forward to this year, when the same crew and I attended the 2023 NAMI Stride 5K Walk to End Mental Health Stigma. This time we met with Abbey’s family and friends, and learned more about wonderful Abbey, who brought much joy into her family’s life. We learned how Abbey suffered silently with anxiety. We also learned how a family can move forward in the midst of grieving to find purpose and share hope.
Abbey’s Bakery sells dry mixed ingredients to three of Abby’s favorite recipes—brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and banana bread—in a mason jar. Each jar is tagged with Abbey’s story as well as directions for baking. The hope is to encourage families to bake together to talk about mental health. As Abbey’s aunt Andrea says “We always say is all the best conversations happen in the kitchen. If you’re in the kitchen, you’re baking and you have her story right there. It’s a great opportunity to open up a conversation.” All proceeds from Abbey’s Bakery are donated to health organizations and initiatives that fight stigma and promote mental health awareness.
This year NAMI awarded Abbey’s Bakery with their Outstanding Community Partner Award. Nick Emeigh (NAMI MAN) has watched the growth of Abbey’s Bakery from its inception and noted the impact it’s making on the community. “I see what would have once been a void of grief and nowhere to turn. I see them working with Abby’s Bakery and founding that organization, helping them to heal. And in helping other people, it’s really giving them a peace that I don’t think that they would’ve found otherwise. One of the biggest questions after someone dies by suicide is ‘Why?’ But instead of just sitting and being upset and just saying ‘Why me?’ they’re out there trying to help other people. They’re trying to help other families not have this happen to them. And I think that that’s amazing.”
“And every time someone walks up to that table and feels a little bit of hope from Abby’s Bakery, that’s their mission in action. It is grief turned into hope turned into action.”
Nothing can replace Abbey. I am honored, however, to document her family’s brave and tireless efforts to turn grief into action to promote mental health awareness, advocate for suicide prevention, and help others who may have lost loved ones to suicide on their grief journey.
If you or someone you know may be in crisis or considering suicide, please call, text, or chat the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.