“Live each day as if it may be your last.” It’s a message oftentimes preached through and through. But, what about another alternative? “Live each day as if it may be your loved one’s last.” New perspective? New meaning? There are never too many times to form the simple phrase, “Love you, man.”
In a tragedy turned beautiful, John and Susie Trautwein are using the Will to Live Foundation as a way to spread love, awareness and hope after losing their son, Will, to suicide in the fall of 2010.
At Will’s funeral, John recognized the outpouring of support and love from his son’s friends and teammates was impeccable, yet Will had not turned to a single person with his internal struggles. Known as a success in so many areas of life–athletic, handsome, well-rounded, family-oriented–John felt that suicide would be the farthest thought from Will’s mind. Yet, like so many others struggling even at this very moment, Will kept his thoughts internalized.
“Life today is hard,” John says. “If Will had just known that it was curable and would have talked to just one of his friends, he might still be alive today.”
With this notion being the driving force behind Will to Live, the Trautwein family wants to encourage outward communication and comfort to everyone, and expand the message that your “Life Teammates” can play such a key role in whatever you may be enduring.
A Life Teammate is simply a person active in your daily life, such as a friend, family member, sports teammate, and so many others. The importance of knowing your own Life Teammates can save a life that’s on the verge of a breakdown. Spreading this message through nation-wide speeches, school programming and clubs, and local events, the Will to Live Foundation has created an outlet to actively create awareness about the second leading cause of death among teens.
Events such as the Willstock Festival, held on September 9 at Northview High School, and the Where There’s a Will There’s a Way 5K, which hosted over 1,700 participants in Johns Creek in January 2017, are allowing the youth to form a foundation that’s “for, through and by the kids.” Encouraging kids talking to kids, Will to Live recognizes that the majority of one’s Life Teammates are formed during the teenage years; so, taking advantage of this opportunity to tell your teammates that you love them may be the first step in changing a life.
Will to Live has raised more than $1 million through organized events, donations and grants from corporate supporters across the country that believe in the mission of the foundation. Will to Live funds the Signs of Suicide (SOS) programs in 2,000+ schools in the U.S., and the foundation also assists with implementing the “Club Will to Live” group in schools. The Trautwein’s message has been so embraced that John has a published book titled My Living Will, which leads readers through the Will to Live story and an incredibly personal perspective of Will’s life and legacy.
“We’re improving people’s will to live, not just decreasing suicide,” John notes. “We need a few more ‘love you’s’, and this platform does that. We’re just getting people to talk because depression is so maskable. This is everything that Will lived for, and it has saved me.”
Through the Will to Live website (Will-To-Live.org), anonymous hotlines and programs are available for those not yet comfortable with confiding in a Life Teammate. With the hope that Will to Live can save even one life through its creation, the foundation believes that Will’s name can live on forever. The Trautwein family lost their teenage son but have gained an entirely new sense of comfort by continuing to keep Will’s name alive through the foundation.
“It’s turned out to be the most rewarding, positive thing, but it stemmed from the most devastating,” John says. “It really is a miracle that this tragedy turned into a true inspiration.”