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A personal tragedy, the lessons it taught and the scholarship that will help make all the difference

Posted December 20, 2022 in Articles

Sarah Olenik thought she knew every facet of social work.

She has a master’s in it from Cleveland State with a license in chemical dependency counseling. In 2016, she and her husband David founded A New Day Treatment Center, providing addiction and mental health treatment. So, she’s walked clients through a gauntlet of challenges, an almost exhaustive list of issues.

But in 2021, David died. Unexpectedly. Thrusting her into that foreign, nebulous space of grief.

He’d been her partner for 32 years. Together, they built an incredibly successful business, one with three locations. They had children and had recently welcomed their first grandchild.

David was her soulmate. He was kind, gentle, patient. Known for his compassion. And without warning, he was gone.

A personal tragedy, the lessons it taught and the scholarship that will help make all the difference

“My entire future was lost the day he took his last breath,” Sarah said.

She needed help of her own.

“I sought a grief counselor right after he passed.”

She would soon discover new paths to social work. Those of loss and support groups, bereavement centers and therapy, tailored to her needs.

“I was able to get specific spouse grief counseling,” she said.

“And so that’s when I really came to appreciate the more detailed aspects of what you can do with a social work degree.”

In 2019, Sarah and David established the Sarah and David Olenik Endowed Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships to CSU students pursing their Master of Social Work. The focus then was on students who also intended to obtain their Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant certification.

“Everyone needs a hand up to achieve their dreams in life,” David said at the time.

This year, Sarah established another scholarship fund, borne both from her love for her late husband and her experiences in therapy after his passing.

The David Olenik Memorial Endowed Scholarship for Social Work will support students who are studying the field of social work and plan to focus on grief and loss issues.

She hopes that the students who benefit from the scholarship will one day provide the kind of specialized treatment she needed, whether it’s processing the loss of a spouse, parent or even a child.

Sarah knows none of this would have been possible without David.

With his MBA and decades of banking experience, he worked in the background of A New Day Treatment Center, managing the business operations.

“It took off like you wouldn’t imagine,” she said.

“I just want to give something back to recognize his part in it.”

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