Four Oak Park and River Forest High School students are working with families near and far to ensure their deceased loved ones are celebrated. Grayson Adelstein, Noah Campbell, Joey DiMaso and Ivan Gillman are the founders of Ripple, a digital service that offers custom video montages, interviews or other recordings to help people remember the lives of departed friends and family members.
Adelstein, a junior at OPRF, said he pitched the idea to his teammates during a business incubator course, a class at the high school that allows students to explore entrepreneurship and develop their own product or service startup. Amidst a brainstorming session, the 17-year-old said he opened up to Campbell, DiMaso and Gillman about losing someone in his family and what it was like to attend a virtual funeral service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The [online] experience was just really poor,” Adelstein told Wednesday Journal as he sat at a small table inside Panera Bread in River Forest with his teammates turned business partners around him. “There were a lot of technical difficulties. The Zoom ended short. People were talking over each other. Overall, it was just a really bad way to remember someone who we really love.”
DiMaso, who is also a junior, and Campbell, a sophomore, explained Ripple is more of a service to streamline different aspects of planning a funeral. The two clarified their business is not meant to replace the services of funeral homes, meaning they do not do burials or other things of that nature. They are an add-on, “an assistance to the funeral home itself,” a way for guests who cannot attend or participate in an in-person service to be part of the experience, Adelstein noted.
They often work with clients to collect pictures, home videos or other key mementos and ask them to record their eulogies, piecing those images together to create one virtual tribute. The tribute, they said, could be played before a service or after, whenever and wherever clients choose.
“The idea of celebrating someone’s life – that’s really important to us,” DiMaso, 17, said.
Throughout the past few months, the four teens have been reaching out to various funeral home directors and religious leaders to strengthen their relationship with community members. What they learned so far, they said, is that their business is “niche,” and some people may be wary of working with a group of teenage boys under serious, sensitive circumstances.
“We know we’re teenagers, and that might seem a little scary,” Campbell, 15, said. “We just want to really emphasize that we are just here because we really care about our community, and we really care about the people. We want to help them. We want to help bring in our expertise in technology in order to help connect them to this experience.”
Campbell said Ripple aims to aid in other parts of a funeral service, including helping families organize a meal train or creating user-friendly donation links.
As the four took turns speaking about their business expansion, they reflected on the last few months spent together. They said they often met here, inside the local Panera, to brainstorm, plan and put Ripple together. This was their makeshift office, a place where they gathered for hours and days on end building Ripple. To them, Ripple is a homegrown effort, something special for the community.
“When a ripple drops in the water, it kind of goes outwards,” Gillman, 17 and an OPRF junior said. “It kind of has an effect on other people. We want to capture the significance of someone’s life, the delicacy of remembering someone.”
Find out more
For more information on Ripple, visit rippleservicesinc.weebly.com or find the business on Instagram at the handle @oprf.ripple. For questions or inquiries, contact the Ripple team at firstname.lastname@example.org.