By Alexa Benson-Valavanis
There was a shy fall breeze as Dan and his son Alex meandered around downtown Chico. They talked, as they so often did, about Alex’s life and the plans peeking out above his horizon.
Dan provided the sort of wisdom fathers do about looming decisions. He offered a gentle yet anchored understanding that however massive the decisions felt now, with time, they could be sorted out.
Alex and his father walked for quite awhile that day. The sun graciously took its time to set, and although things were not perfect, they had each other.
Days later Alex was gone.
As I walked into Dan and Joan’s home, my heart ached. I knew the death of a child wasn’t a grief I could understand nor fathom, nevertheless, I was there to offer what support I could.
Dan told me about that long walk and so many other memories the family now clung to. Alex’s life had been filled with tremendous joys, as well as, the challenges. They wanted to talk about ways to honor their son’s life as they found ways to carry on.
A few months later The Alex Project was created; its dedicated mission to prevent youth suicide. In a successful first endeavor, The Alex Project, forged partnerships with outside nonprofits making text messaging to Crisis Hotlines an option for our local youth in crisis.
When Alex took his life, texting a Crisis Hotline was not an option. It takes only a glance at a teenager to realize texting is not a communication preference but the norm. As Dan puts it, “we can’t expect our children to change their communication style when they are in crisis and trying to find help. We must change how we hear them.”
Each day when I get to the Community Foundation I start by offering a few moments to Alex and the work of saving lives we do in his memory.