Independence church opens new youth sports lodge with donations going to local suicide prevention

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Teen suicides have rocked many high schools in the metro already this year. Now, a local church is hoping a new program will give young people a place to go for hope and help.

Epic Church in Independence just recently purchased the old KC Sports Lodge, and they're using it to kick off a new program they hope just might save lives.

From shooting hoops to throwing around the pigskin, there's 70,000 square feet of course and fields inside Epic Church's new Sports Lodge. But the purpose behind the play space is much deeper than just fun and games.

"This is a small way we can say you matter. You matter to us, and you matter to people around you. And you matter to the world," Epic Church lead pastor Bobby Hawk said.

Once a week after school from 2:30-5 p.m., the space is open to area students to have a safe place to hang out. They can get a free drink, do homework and play. Every dollar donated goes back to their home districts for suicide prevention programming.

"Nothing breaks my heart more as a youth pastor than to see students who feel like there's no hope left," Epic Church youth pastor Caleb Spengler said. "Their life is just beginning."

Students at the Sports Lodge say they know depression is a real issue among their peers. They're glad this program is now offering kids a place to hang and get help if they need someone to talk to.

"We're all connected, and we all work together in this. We can help each other not be as depressed as we are. In reality, high-schoolers have so much to live for," high school student Anthony Esposit said.

Open play will be hosted at the Sports Lodge Thursday nights when school is in session. A donation of just $5 gets kids in the door.

The Epic Sports Lodge is located at 19310 E. 50th Terrace South in Independence, which is in the cross section of Independence, Blue Springs and Lee's Summit school districts.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Click on the boxes below for our FOX 4 You Matter reports and other helpful phone numbers and resources.