JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — There are few tragedies sadder or harder to bear than the suicide of a child. But for some who experience that grief, it becomes a calling. So it was with somber John Trautwein, founder of the Will to Live Foundation.
“The foundation started after the suicide death of my son,” said Trautwein. “His death shocked everybody, because nobody knew he was struggling in any way shape or form.
“So we decided to come up with a foundation that worked with kids to get them to talk.”
The idea is to get troubled youngsters to express themselves and express their feelings and communicate with each other.
“And we did this by showing them that they’ve already made really good friends in their lives,” Trautwein said.
The Life Teammates event was held to communicate this message and the “I love you man” message, a mantra found on the bracelets that high school mentors were giving to the younger kids playing their rec games.
The event had some 90 high school mentors giving speeches to the kids after each of the 46 games. The speeches focused on the “I love you man” message, teaching the kids the importance of looking out for their teammates on and off the field. After each speech, the kids were encouraged to turn to a member of the opposing team and say simply, “I love you man.”
Along with the younger kids in the program, the involvement of the high school mentors is one of the goals of the Will to Live Foundation.
“It’s done by the kids, but it’s also done for the kids,” said Trautwein. “It’s really fun to see these kids embrace it.”
So while it’s certainly benefitting the kids receiving the lessons to take care of their teammates, the program is also there to help the mentors.
“Our goal is if these kids start to recognize that they have great friends and great love in their lives, that will increase their will to live,” he said. “And that will then hopefully reduce this epidemic of teen suicide.”