Skip to main content

Carly Woythaler-Runestad


She wasn’t sure she wanted to share her story. Actually, she felt like she didn’t really have one. She says the people she works with, they have the “real” story.

As the executive director of the Mourning Hope Grief Center, Carly Woythaler-Runestad has seen and heard a lot of stories. She’s not a grief group facilitator and she doesn’t lead any of the sessions, but she is the one who’s responsible for keeping the lights on and the programs running at Mourning Hope.

It’s a job that she ‘fell’ into in many senses, but it’s become her greatest passion and something that’s helped her define her own story.

Carly grew up in a rural town in central Iowa. It was a small, community-focused place where she was surrounded by strong parents, impactful mentors and experienced a nurturing upbringing. This environment seemed to set the tone for Carly’s life.

She attended the University of Iowa and received her undergraduate degree before going on to work as a music therapist and then the director of a long-term care facility. Carly decided to return to school to earn her Master’s degree in health care administration and then put her degree to work as a lobbyist for the Nebraska Hospital Association.

Carly had several jobs after she graduated that she liked and was good at, but each one seemed more like stepping stones rather than a place to settle down and dig in. She felt like she was constantly searching for the right fit, and started to think maybe it didn’t exist.

She and her husband moved to Nebraska in 2004 and a few years later Carly’s life was shifted by major changes and transitions. Her mother was battling cancer, her grandparents died and she experienced a miscarriage – all of which happened in a relatively short period of time.

The sudden losses and change caused Carly to re-evaluate her story, to start thinking about who she was, what she wanted to do and who she wanted to be. She realized she wanted a job that she was excited to go to every day, a place where she could see the impact of her work and was more than just a way to utilize her skills and take home a paycheck.

It was during this period of transition that Carly came across the Mourning Hope Grief Center.

She started out as a part time employee who was interested in the center’s mission of helping kids and their caregivers navigate seasons of loss. Carly watched broken, unsure and scared kids and caregivers walk through the front door of Mourning Hope, only to see them leave with hope and excitement.

It’s work that’s nearly addictive because of the noticeable impact it has on families, and Carly said it didn’t take long before she stopped seeing Mourning Hope as a stepping stone to something bigger… it became her landing place.

The work got under her skin in the best way possible and opened her eyes to a population of the city and state that she hadn’t seen before. Mourning Hope’s mission became her mission as she dug in and found her place.

It’s heavy work, but Carly wouldn’t have it any other way. The stories of the kids and families from Mourning Hope seem to play on a continuous loop in her mind, motivating her to work harder, do more and send emails at nearly all hours of the day.

They are the reason she loves waking up and going to work.

They are the reason she’s worked to join local and national organizations to advocate for grieving children and families.

And they are the reason she’s an engaged wife and mother who values every minute with her family.

People often ask Carly if she experienced a significant loss that kick-started her passion, but that’s not why she joined the team at Mourning Hope. She joined because she discovered a deep desire to help others.

As she looks back on her educational and career path, Carly can see that caring well for others has been a theme in her jobs and her story. It’s part of who she is, and something she’s always valued, but working at Mourning Hope brought that to the surface.

Carly said that for so long it felt like she was searching for her story, for what was next and where she wanted to invest her energy and time. Now, ‘what’s next’ looks like staying put, raising her family and being diligent in her work.

She referenced the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that says: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

That’s what she wants in life, to live her story well by helping shoulder the burdens of others. For the first time in a long time Carly isn’t looking for what’s next, it’s right in front of her, and her story has never seemed so clear.

Jeremy Tredway


When you live in the midwest, and your job is on the west coast, it seems some reevaluating needs to take place.

Fortunately for Jeremy Tredway, his commute requires climbing a flight of stairs rather than a cross-country flight.

A web developer living in Lincoln, NE, Jeremy has enjoyed the benefits of remaining in a family-friendly and affordable city while working for a company based in San Francisco.

Jeremy is full of confidence and loves creative problem solving. Two characteristics that have been a blessing throughout his life.

Most of Jeremy’s days growing up were spent in some mode of exploration. His band of neighborhood friends sought adventure outdoors or played role-playing games in someone’s basement. When he was alone at home, he lost himself in imaginary worlds found in books.

As he entered high school, the theme of exploration continued. Jeremy’s interest in architecture and engineering evolved into a thought that aerospace engineering would be a good career.

Between his junior and senior year, Jeremy decided to attend a summer seminar at the Air Force Academy to test his theory. The military lifestyle presented there quickly turned him off and he decided he would need to pursue a different career course.

That year Jeremy found himself in an unusual place. He followed a friend to a Young Life meeting where people his age were listening to a message he had never heard. He left shaken and full of questions about Christianity and meaning, the direction of his life and relationships.

The questions continued to nag at him. So much so that in the middle of his senior year, he switched enrollment in a chemistry class to a philosophy class.

Even as Jeremy entered college, architecture and engineering were pushed aside and he triple majored in Philosophy, Psychology, and Independent Studies in Church History.

Despite all of his reflection and philosophical pursuit, Jeremy remained unconvinced. He wasn’t ready to commit to any belief that required a significant life change.

Throughout college, Jeremy and his group of childhood friends stayed close and during the summer following their freshman year, began making some poor decisions.

One summer night, the guys set out to make explosives and while Jeremy was holding a piece of pipe, the explosive went off.

What happened next was unimaginable. In the explosion, Jeremy had lost both hands and shrapnel had broken his knee. He was bleeding profusely from shrapnel wounds to his chest, abdomen, arm and upper right leg.

A critical care nurse nearby heard the sound and rushed to the scene. Her presence that day helped save Jeremy’s life.

The next few months wove together as his body stabilized and he adjusted to his new normal. Weeks of therapy at Madonna Rehabilitation taught him how to use his new prosthetics and despite all he had lost, the word to describe how he felt at that time was ‘Optimistic’.

“It’s hyperbole to say I never journaled, but… I never journaled,” he grabbed a book from his bookshelf. Turning the pages, he explained, “I was in a hard place and wrote this eight days before the accident. ‘Dear Christ, I’m still here…trying to hold on to faith…I want to know where I am going.’ After the accident, I wrote again, but it’s a lot harder to read because I didn’t have hands anymore.”

He smiled and read on, “I wonder if this is God’s answer to my question. It has to be more than coincidence.”

As his journal entry implied, he was ready for change and felt he needed to go a new direction. “A new hope blossomed and motivated me. Something that wasn’t there before, was now present.”

Eventually, Jeremy went back to school and finished his undergrad over a span of six years. Throughout this time, he continued to face questions about his identity and new relationship with God.

Toward the end of his program, Jeremy spent a year at Oxford. He ended his time in Europe with a bike trip, following an ancient path through France and Spain.

The El Camino de Santiago was a pilgrimage also known as St. James’s Way. The route had historical origins, but Jeremy was more concerned with the current challenges the path presented a man with no hands.

“During the pilgrimage, I couldn’t repair a tire, I didn’t know if I could afford the trip, I didn’t know the path, and I didn’t know the language. But I felt like God took care of me.”

Jeremy relays each detail with little surprise in his face or voice.

“I finished the pilgrimage, returned home to complete the last few classes I needed to graduate, met the girl I was to marry and then decided to go to seminary.”

Heeding the repeated advice of friends, Jeremy began pursuing his Masters of Divinity and Counseling and the following year, he was married.

“The interesting thing about seminary is that they don’t push you to do one thing. They want you to consider your gifts and personality and use them.”

By now, Jeremy had spent almost a decade pursuing degrees that pointed toward ministry and counseling, but as he began to spend time taking personality tests and thinking more deeply about his calling in life, he felt pulled back to his original interests in applied sciences.

“I knew some careers were no longer an option without hands.”

So he began thinking about computers. And systems and programming and solving problems.

Jeremy was always curious about those things, and that gave him a head start. Throughout seminary, he had earned the nickname “Tinker” because he was always messing around with his computer. “I learned how to network and reconfigure stuff just by messing around.”

It wasn’t until he was asked to set up a computer network at a friend’s law firm that he began to seriously consider a career change. “I began to talk with friends and professors and pray about everything.”

With only two classes remaining to finish his degree, Jeremy completed his Masters in Theology, switched gears and enrolled in an HTML class at the local community college.

And the rest… is history.

“I love the job. Love solving the problems. Love the detail of putting things together. I find so much pleasure in the creative process.”

Although Jeremy’s life has been filled with shifts, twists, turns and the unexpected, so much of his story is about being passively prepared. His natural curiosity and confidence keeps him one step ahead and he’s not afraid to try new things, explore and solve problems.

As for life’s next curve? That’s still unknown, but Jeremy and his wife are always ready for the next curve because they know that somehow, they’ll be ready. And for them, that’s what really matters.

Close Menu
Follow along and be the first to know about our work, story series and general happenings.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.