On Dec. 4, John Trautwein came to Sacred Heart University to speak about his non-profit foundation, Will to Live. The foundation is dedicated to his son, Will Trautwein, who was a victim of suicide.
On the website will-to-live.org, their mission is stated as, “We are dedicated to preventing teen suicide by improving the lives and the ‘will to live’ of teenagers everywhere through education about mental health and encouraging them to recognize the love and hope that exists in each other.”
Trautwein spoke energetically and interactively to a room full of Sacred Heart students, athletes, and faculty, educating them about teenage suicide and mental health through his personal story of loss.
The vision of the Will to Live foundation is stated on their website, “to be a positive and motivational resource for teens, young adults, and their families, in the global fight against teen suicide, depression and the stigma surrounding mental illness in our communities.”
Will was a loving brother to three siblings, an aspiring musician, a lacrosse player, and a humble teammate. Trautwein also said that Will was a loving friend to everyone and they never expected him to be suffering.
Through this tragedy, Trautwein came up with the mission of having “Life Teammates.” The idea behind this initiative is to recognize and support the “teammates” in our lives, whether they are friends, family members, classmates, co-workers or actual teammates.
Throughout his speech, Trautwein expressed the importance of being kind and looking out for everyone because like his son Will, even the people you least expect could be struggling internally.
“Good teams may win, but great teams love each other,” said John Trautwein.
Sacred Heart University is raising awareness around mental health, especially within the athlete population with the Heart to Heart initiative.
Sophomore Jamie Maresca is a member of Heart to Heart and attended his speech. She was moved and inspired by Trautwein’s message.
“For me the big take away from the speaker was realizing how many things in our lives today can cause problems for people and we really don’t know. I thoroughly enjoyed his idea about how kids today have it worse off than he did growing up because of all the social media we have in our lives,” said Maresca.
Maresca is also a student athlete, being a member of the cheerleading team she acts as their team’s representative for Heart to Heart.
“Student athletes tend to be under a lot of pressure and can have severe mental health issues, so our Heart to Heart program wants to raise awareness for student athletes to know that it’s okay to not be okay and seek the help they need,” said Maresca.
Trautwein also told a story about how Will and his friends used to say “Love ya man” to each other every day. He carries this phrase on through the foundation to remind everyone to show the people in your life that you care about them. Even the smallest positive affirmation can turn someones day around.
“The kids of the Will To Live Foundation prove to us everyday, that the greatest source of HOPE in our lives, is through the LOVE of a Friend. So drop a “Love ya man” on someone today – you’ll feel better,” said Trautwein.
You can visit will-to-live.org for more information and to get involved in the foundation.