This year, the Wilson family will experience a holiday season without their son.
In September, the 11-year-old took his own life. The pain and torment that he had experienced in his young life had become too much for him to bear. At the age of eight, he lost his mother to cancer, at nine, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. And, he was relentlessly bullied at school – even suffering anxiety after a particularly vicious attack.
You may have read the story about Mitchell Wilson as it briefly made headlines in the newspapers earlier this fall. I first heard the story just days after it happened from a relative of mine who knows the family and is herself, the mother of a 10-year-old. As she told it, there were tears in her eyes. There was also fear, as she undoubtedly contemplated what the future would be like for her own children.
I too was deeply disturbed by this story. It haunts me to think that a child so young would feel that there was no way out; that suicide was his only way to peace. I wondered, could this tragedy be prevented?
What can be done to prevent other children from experiencing the same pain and anguish that Mitchell felt? What if Mitchell had experience a place where he felt accepted? A place where he felt he belonged? A safe community where caring role models and friends could offer support in times of need?
Like the place where Malia participated in a youth leadership development program to gain the self confidence to deal with bullying at school, or where Bill went when he lost his father, to play sports and experience a positive environment. What if Mitchell had been part of the same child care program as Rosalyn, a young girl with cerebral palsy, who gained support, encouragement and inspiration to dream of a brighter future? Or Holly, who found friends and renewed optimism.
What is kids in need in our community could go to one special place that teaches the importance of integration and inclusion through experiences like summer camp? A place where they could grow up strong, like Jorge, a become leaders in our community. There is a place.
I know this place.
You know this place.
It’s your YMCA.
At your YMCA, children are finding the courage to believe in themselves – to reach for their dreams, to have a second chance, to form new friendships and gain the confidence they need to change their lives.
Everyone deserves this chance.
And you can help.
You can give children a reason to Believe they can achieve anything they want from their lives, regardless of what they have today. Your gift to the YMCA Strong Kids campaign will proved hope and health so that all children can benefit from a YMCA experience.
The need in our community is growing every day. More families are experiencing financial difficulties and are turning to the YMCA for help. We’ve had more requests for financial assistance this year than funds raised through the YMCA Strong Kids campaign and with your generosity now, we can ensure that no one is turned away.
I believe that out of tragedy there can sometimes come good. Incidentally, so do Mitchell’s parents. They dropped the charges made against the boy who brutally attacked their son, and instead, they requested that the court order him to perform community service. Mitchell’s family has said that they are trying to “save the child, because he is just a child too,”
At the YMCA, we are trying to save kids too. You can help us make a difference by donating to the YMCA Strong Kids campaign. Every gift made will help us to help kids believe in themselves – and their future.
With heartfelt appreciation,
Manager, Financial Development