High school students come together to fight teen suicide, mental illness in Monmouth County
Story by Dorothy K. LaMantia Correspondent
For years, students in Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank Regional and Rumson-Fair Haven High Schools have been friends in their neighborhoods but rivals on the playing fields. Competition gave way to concerted effort, however, following the suicide of a student at Rumson-Fair Haven High School in October.
Michael Eulner, a senior in Red Bank Regional High School and member of Nativity Parish, Fair Haven, approached educators about his desire to respond to the tragedy.
“I wanted to do something,” he said. “I didn’t want to glorify the situation but to change the way people view mental illness and suicide.”
By late fall, the conversation had led to planning a springtime event “to make a change,” Eulner said, “so we could come together as one big community instead of three separate schools.”
He extended the conversation to classmates Thomas Lloyd and Claudia Kelly, then reached out to Courtney Carroll and Lily Salcedo at Red Bank Catholic and Teddy Sourlis and Ellie Gibney at Rumson-Fair Haven, all personal friends and active participants in the lives of their schools.
Early this year, this band of friends who witnessed the emotional fallout within their communities in the aftermath of the student’s death, organized the Ridge Road Run – a 5K to raise funds for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Association of Monmouth County.
The run, which includes three separate events – a one-mile run, the 5K and a kiddie dash – is scheduled for the morning of April 15 on the Rumson-Fair Haven campus.
They engaged Doug Rice of Race Forum, a professional race company based in the New York metropolitan area, to guide them in developing a state-of-the-art event while maximizing participation and profits.
“We’ve been in charge of everything. People wanted to be part of it,” said Carroll of Red Bank Catholic, explaining that families, parents who own companies and local businesses are among the sponsors.
The two top tiers of sponsorships – platinum, for a $2K donation and gold, $1,500 – were filled within the first 48 hours. At $500 and $150, respectively, the silver and bronze tiers are still available. Sponsorships help pay for T-shirts, water bottles and bracelets each participant will receive in their race packets.
On April 12, Monmouth Mall 15, Eatontown, will screen the film “Suicide – The Ripple Effect,” to raise awareness for mental health issues, the rise in teenage suicides and the race itself.
“It’s overwhelming,” Carroll said, adding that the group never expected such an outpouring of support. “It has been so good to have friends and family reaching out to us. All teachers at school are putting up our posters in their classrooms and are signing up [to participate].”
As the date draws closer, the committee will be looking for volunteers.
“We have over 500 sign-ups, but we have to get more students to run,” said Gibney of Nativity Parish, adding that more volunteers are needed as well.
Kathleen Booth, student assistance counselor at Red Bank Catholic, said it was inspiring to see the schools working together. “Our students saw that when one school loses, we all lose. Now they are turning tragedy into triumph by getting people to talk about mental illness without stigma.”
Gibney and Sourlis are the only two students on the run committee who personally knew the young man whose death inspired the community action. “We have to do this because we saw firsthand how [suicide] affects a community,” Gibney said. “We knew those involved, and we saw how difficult it was for them.”
For more information, to sign up or to donate, go to www.ridgeroadrun.org.[[In-content Ad]]