Young friends put on golf tournaments for suicide prevention

OLATHE, Kan. -- A local charity golf tournament will take place in a couple of weeks that will support suicide prevention and awareness programs.  This week’s FOX 4 Young Achievers, two high school juniors, are organizing and running the event from top to bottom.  They did a successful one last fall, as well, having never done anything like it before.

Alexandria Wilson and Cameron Jones are making a lot of visits this fall to local businesses like Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe and PGi, Premiere Global Services, Inc. also in Olathe.  These two close friends have become real pros at pitching requests for prize donations, contributions and sponsorships for a charity golf tournament.  That’s because they made these pitches over and over again last fall, too.  Both businesses participated last year and they are doing it again.

“At first it was a little difficult trying to put together what we were going to say,” said FOX 4 Young Achiever Alexandria.  “But as we got going we just get in and tell our story, tell them how we were able to put it together and how much we really put into this event and how much we really need their help.  And so, as we get it going, we’re able to get more and more sponsorships.”

These Olathe Northwest High School juniors are putting on their second annual benefit golf tournament in memory of two girls at their high school who died by suicide a couple of years ago.  They didn’t know the girls personally but saw how devastating it was for everyone at school and they wanted to help.

“No one was really talking about it,” said FOX 4 Young Achiever Cameron.  “Everyone was really just sad.  And we wanted to start a project that was able to talk about suicide.  Talking about how to prevent it, talking about it as an issue, of course, but mostly just how to prevent it, how, people can know about it, what to do.  Just all situations, what people can do.”

Cameron and Alexandria got some expert advice and volunteer help and ran with their golf tournament idea.  They got 128 golfers to participate last year along with 13 sponsors and 70 companies to donate.  They raised $22,000 and turned a profit of $10,000.  The girls gave it all to the Kansas chapter of The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an organization that does suicide awareness and prevention programs.

“It took off,” said Alexandria.  “People got word of it.  We ended up really making it a big thing, which was really fun.”

Fun and meaningful.

“We are hoping to start the conversation about suicide, that this does happen but we can figure out a way that we can make it stop happening,” said Cameron.  Alexandria and Cameron succeeded in a big way with their charity golf tournament last fall even though they went in knowing almost nothing about how to do it.  They’d never been involved with an event like that before let alone put one on.

“I think everything they do begins and ends with precision and planning and finesse,” said Josh Anderson.

Anderson is now in Central Administration in the Olathe School District but he had the girls in his debate and forensics classes at Olathe Northwest the past two years.  Anderson said they seized opportunities to lead even as freshmen and despite their youth and lack of experience,  they pulled off their golf tournament with dogged determination and total belief in their cause and themselves.

“These two girls are so unique and so powerful in their vision and for them to come through and have that passion and have that ability to see the big picture, to organize an event that makes a difference in our community, that’s unique among this age group,” said Anderson.  “These two girls really did do something special.  They really did do something important for our community.  And at this point, their age didn’t matter.  It was their passion that mattered.”

Now they’re back at it with some important changes.  They have created their own tax exempt charitable foundation, Prevention Today For Greater Tomorrows.  And with the proceeds from this fall’s golf event  they will again donate to suicide prevention and awareness efforts but they also plan to give out five $1,000 scholarships to college-bound seniors at Olathe Northwest.

“Honestly, I can’t wait,” said Cameron.  “I am so excited for October 14th (golf tournament day) to finally come because last year it was so fun just to see everyone out there and then something that we put on and I’m really excited for it.  We have more cool things coming, more really fun little things that are going to draw people and we hope to have a lot of people there.”

“Now that we know what we can do, we’re definitely going to shoot for the stars now,” said Alexandria.  To start life-saving conversations and keep them going.

The girls’ Second Annual Memorial Golf Tournament for Suicide Prevention is scheduled for October 14th.  It will be held at Falcon Ridge in Lenexa, the site of last year’s event.  There is still room for golfers and also sponsors and prize donors.  Go to this link for tournament participation information.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments.  In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.  Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.