In less than a year and a half, Nate Riexinger of Hamlin lost a good friend and the brother of a bandmate to suicide. It was too much for him to handle from afar.
“I wanted to do something about it,” said Riexinger, a 2019 graduate of Brockport High School and drummer for the band Element 36. “I wanted kids to know there are people who care. The skate community is a huge family and we wanted to link them in.”
Riexinger, along with Kyle Matthews, a longtime friend and a student at The College at Brockport, teamed up to organize the Skate to End Hate. The wellattended music and skateboarding event was held on Sept. 8 at the Sweden Town Park to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Western New York Area chapter.
“During the process of setting this up, the stepfather of a very good friend also took his life,” said Matthews, who also runs Infamous Street Co., a clothing brand. “It just showed the need for this event. Nate and I wanted to show everyone there are people in the community that won’t look away and will help.”
Among the vendors, music, food and raffles was a table staffed by volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It was busy throughout the seven-hour event.
“We are seeing a huge range of people here from all ages and backgrounds,” said volunteer Donna Besler of Canandaigua. “Everyone from skaters who are here to support the cause, to people who have lost loved ones to suicide to a gentleman who was suicidal himself. We were ready and able to support him and give him resources.”
Volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a personal mission for Besler, who lost her own son Brennan Tatem to suicide on Nov. 23, 2014. He was a 19-year-old sophomore at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
“He was an actor and athlete,” Besler said. “He was a handsome and brilliant young man on the outside, but on the inside he was struggling and we didn’t know the depth. Events like this are so important to break the stigma and allow kids to openly and freely talk about their inner challenges without people judging them.”
That accepting vibe was what Riexinger and Matthews were going for when they first conceived the Skate to End Hate in late May immediately following the death of Chase Marshall, 14, of Farmington. Chase’s brother Zachary is also a member of Element 36.
Riexinger and Matthews, who hope to make the Skate to End Hate an annual event, dedicated the inaugural event to the memories of Marshall and Hannah Testa, a friend and classmate of theirs at Brockport High School who died on December 15, 2017, at the age of 16. Both the Marshall and Testa families have shared publicly with media that their children died of suicide.
The most recent data from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shows that in New York state, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34.
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255. The 24/7 lifeline offers free and confidential support for people in distress, resources for the caller or loved one calling about them, and best practices for professionals. An online chat is also available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
Local chorale looking for NYC performers
In August 2017 I told you about the Amadeus Chorale Youth Singers being invited to perform at the 2017
Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Darla Bair, of Sweden, the chorale’s founder and artistic director, reports she will bring a group of adult singers this December to open for the Rockettes. If you’re interested in performing or attending as an audience member (you must be 16 and up) visit travelwithdarla.com.
Contact Caurie at email@example.com with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog/.