9/11 victim's parents
start children's fund
Staff Writer

March 2, 2003 - As a child, Todd Ouida suffered from panic attacks that eventually led to 2½ years of intensive psychotherapy - therapy that saved his life, according to his father, Herbert.

It was something Todd Ouida never really talked much about with his parents, but it was something his therapist related to the crowd that gathered for his memorial service last year.

"People came up to us after the service and said, 'You should create something in Todd's name, in the area that [the doctor] spoke about,'" recalled Herbert Ouida, whose son perished at age 25 in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

So Herbert and Andrea Ouida of River Edge created the Todd Ouida Children's Foundation, which recently donated $250,000 to the medical school at Todd's alma mater, the University of Michigan.

The endowment will help to further research and treatment for - as well as raise awareness of - childhood anxiety disorders.

Meanwhile, the interest on the gift will be used to endow the annual Lecture in Childhood Anxiety and Depression, said Gregory Hanna, an associate professor and director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the university. Herbert Ouida said the lecture series will begin in the fall, and Hanna said the Ouidas will be present.

"It's great to have him involved in this way," Hanna said of Herbert Ouida. "I think he has taken it as a personal cause."

It's a cause the Ouidas have taken up to help Todd's spirit live on and foster hope in spite of tragedy.

"We're working hard in this area because we really believe that the answer to what happened on Sept. 11th has to be not only a military answer," Herbert Ouida said, "but there has to be something that you're trying to build that's positive as well."

Herbert Ouida, who was at work in the offices of the World Trade Centers Association on the 77th floor of Tower One the day of the attacks, escaped safely. His son, who worked as a currency trader at Cantor Fitzgerald on the tower's 105th floor, did not.

His mother last heard from him when he called her shortly after the plane hit and said he was on the way to the stairs.

To keep Todd's name alive, Herbert Ouida retired in December to devote himself to the foundation, a fund to support psychological services for children. A Web site - www.mybuddytodd.org - was created.

The Ouidas also held a birthday party for him May 18, at which stories about Todd were shared and funds were raised. Another is planned for the spring.

"We wanted something permanent in his name," Herbert Ouida said of the endowment. "Because I'll tell you something: All of us suffer. I'm in a therapy group on Monday nights. All of us suffer from the same thing to a great extent, and that is that we don't want our loved ones forgotten."

The gift to Michigan primarily comprised money from Todd Ouida's estate; in addition, the Ouidas have raised more than $100,000, including $40,000 at the 2002 birthday celebration.

Théoden K. Janes' e-mail address is janes@northjersey.com