Jun 11, 2018

Shrewsbury Teen Takes a Stand on Suicide

By Lori Draz and Michael Eulner

Michael Eulner

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact the Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

Intro for Michael

This month’s author is Shrewsbury’s Michael Eulner, an 18-year-old senior at Red Bank Regional High School who will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall. In this month of graduations, we naturally look at accomplishments and goals met. We are also carefully watching the news in the hopes that bitter conflicts between North and South Korea can soon become a thing of the past. For Michael, the goals he met came from a very unexpected source. He was a typical high school senior eagerly preparing for a hard-fought football game against his rival team when something much bigger than football took over his passion and vision. Michael used the experience to become a humanitarian and an activist, and in the process learned a great many lessons about unification, perseverance and compassion. Here is Michael’s story.

This past October, I was the typical busy high schooler applying to colleges, playing sports, and everything in between. The big football game between Red Bank Regional High School and our Ridge Road rival, Rumson-Fair Haven (RFH), was just six days away when something happened that would eventually change my life. RFH unexpectedly lost a student by suicide. I did not know the boy who unfortunately took his life, but the whole community was in shock and grief-stricken over this tragedy. I felt that the community should not have to ever feel like this again.

Typically, Red Bank Catholic (RBC) and RFH are our biggest rivals in sports. The games are full of tension on the field, and competing against those teams makes you a play a little faster and stronger. It gives you that extra push that only playing one or the other rival can give you. The students from RFH are probably our biggest rival, but instead of doing battle against them, the suicide seemed to unite us in a stunned sadness. After the suicide, I decided I wanted to plan an event that could make a change. I created the Ridge Road Run 5K for Suicide Prevention.

I started by contacting some people I knew from my school (RBR), RFH, and RBC. We created a seven-person committee for the race. After the first meeting, we were told that it would be difficult to raise money from a race because there are so many 5K runs in Monmouth County. We ignored that statement.

After six months of hard work, long days, little sleep, hundreds of emails and phone calls, and especially trying to multitask race planning with school work, it was time for the race day. We were hoping for nice weather and we got the complete opposite. We had chilly temperatures with gusting winds and periods of rain. Even with the unfortunate weather, we still had an unexpectedly huge turnout. We ran all the races: the 5K, the 1 Mile Fun Run, and the Kiddie Dashes, and they all luckily were run during a break in the rain. We had such amazing community support. We had over 80 business and family sponsors as well as over 1,200 participants in the 5K. We ignored the warnings that there were too many 5K races and followed our passion to do something good. The day was a complete success. We raised over $118,000 for the Mental Health Association of Monmouth County and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

I was thrilled that we could come together to run such a successful race, but I was truly unaware of the impact this race made on the community. It really hit me when a policeman came up to us. He was fighting back tears as he thanked us for this event. He said it was truly overdue. Our community has been silent for too long about mental health and suicide, and I felt I needed to personally do something to make a change. A student-driven event would be the best way for people of all ages to realize and understand that each life matters and that it is OK to not be OK. We wanted to share the message that each life is priceless and people are always there for you, if and when you ever need help.

There are so many people in your life that you may think are living a normal life. Little do you know, approximately 20 percent of kids have a diagnosable mental health condition. With six of the seven committee members off for college, we are still planning to organize the second annual Ridge Road Run with aspirations to make it a 501c (3) nonprofit organization.

I want to thank the Two River Community for the tremendous support as we came together to build awareness of this most worthy cause. Although we may be rivals on the field, there are no rivals when it comes to saving lives. We put the rivalries aside and came together as ONE community, rather than three separate ones.

If you are passionate about something or want to make a change, don’t sit back and be a spectator. Go out and be that change. Be different. Find people who want to make that change as much as you do. Don’t listen to your detractors, just follow your heart. All it takes is an idea. When you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. There will be many obstacles and troubles along the way, but it will be worth every second.