Last year the impetus for a community roundtable on the hazards facing young people was the sheer number of them who had died or were suffering the loss of those close to them.
Some two dozen deaths over the course of a few years left those affected grasping for answers. While there’s a sense the past year has been more bearable in that respect, organizers of the second annual Save A Life forum say the need for engagement and dialogue remains.
“I think the problem is we get lulled into thinking it’s OK because you’re not motivated by tragedy,” said the Rev. Chip Low, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown.
Lisa Tomeny, fellow organizer and president of the Alliance for Safe Kids, agreed.
“The time you want to focus on prevention is when it’s calm,” Tomeny said.
More than 300 adults and teens turned out for last year’s workshops and seminars on topics such as alcohol and drug use, teen suicide and communication between parents and teens. It began as an interfaith effort, but quickly grew to include community groups like ASK along with the town and school districts.
The idea is to assemble a network of community stakeholders too seldom seen for the unified support structure they represent.
This year’s iteration is set for 3-6 p.m. March 11 at Yorktown Community and Cultural Center, 1974 Commerce St.
The keynote speaker is Taryn Grimes-Herbert, author and parenting columnist as well as anti-bullying activist.
Adult workshops include “When to Take Action,” “Suicidal Teens and Neighbors” and “Parents Talking with Parents.” On the teen side, topics include “Being an Ally,” “Save My Friend’s Life” and “My Friend is Talking About Suicide.”
Students are eligible for three hours of community service credit by attending.
Claire Woodley-Aitichson, rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Mohegan Lake, knows the grief felt by young people at the recurring losses among them. She lost her son, Noah, in a car crash in 2006. He was just 16.
It’s impossible to say whether the first Save A Life prevented subsequent tragedies, she and other organizers agree. There are only the accounts by young people — “go-to kids,” she calls them — of their interventions with friends at risk for suicide, drug use or similar jeopardy. “The measure is the anecdotes that are told,” Woodley-Aitichison said.