Alone in a car, on a cold forest service road, my friend Tom put a gun to his head and ended his life. My friend Tom lived life to the fullest. His smile and energy were infectious. He was one of those people whose presence just made you feel instantly happy. He often had a twinkle in his eye when he spoke and he was an engaged and empathetic listener. Tom epitomized the Bend lifestyle with his insane mountain biking and back country skiing adventures. I never knew that behind all his positive radiance he also had a very dark childhood. A darkness which stayed with him and tragically overtook him as he sat alone in his car that winter night.
After Tom’s death I learned faint details of his childhood. Tom was a victim of an abusive parent. A victim of horrible crimes which laid silent and unresolved for years. Tom’s story has been a catalyst for my support of KIDS Center in Bend. I truly believe that if someone could have recognized what was going on in Tom’s household during his childhood and an organization like KIDS Center could have intervened, my friend Tom would still be here living a beautiful and fulfilling life with all his friends who loved and admired him.
“KIDS Center is dedicated to the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of child abuse in Central Oregon. Kids are the future and it is the responsibility of adults, not kids, to keep them safe. At KIDS Center, children and families can receive life-changing services to help them heal and overcome the devastating effects of child abuse.” – kidscenter.org
It is the responsibility and moral obligation for every adult to speak out if child abuse is suspected. Whether it’s suspected in our own home, a friend’s home, a family member’s home, whether it brings us feelings of awkwardness, shame or embarrassment, we must speak out and seek help. KIDS Center is a non-profit organization which can offer that help. They have assisted over 10,000 children and families over the past 25 years and their services are completely free.
In sharing Tom’s story, I feel a sense of uneasiness. I struggle with feeling that Tom and his story are not mine to tell. I feel that maybe his story should be protected and covered up with just the memory of him being an amazing person and friend to so many. However, if telling Tom’s story will give someone else the courage to speak up about suspected abuses, then it is my responsibility and moral obligation to share, and I know Tom would agree.
If you would like to learn more about KIDS Center and how they can help, please join us at their virtual Healing Hearts Luncheon.
VIRTUAL HEALING HEARTS LUNCHEON
Tuesday, April 18th, 11:30 – 1 pm
Help raise awareness and vital funds to prevent, evaluate, and treat child abuse in Central Oregon!
Here are ways you can help:
Attend this event as my team member at Tom’s Table
Make a donation if you are unable to attend – please reference our Team, Tom’s Table
Online donation NOW
Send a check payable to KIDS Center, 1375 NW Kingston Avenue, Bend, OR 97703
VISA, MC, AMEX or DISCOVER, call KIDS Center at 541-383-5958
For more information: www.kidscenter.org