Jacob’s SWAG Foundation Inc. is being established in memory of our son, brother and friend, Jacob Ellefson. Jacob was a young man who passed away on June 7, 2012, by taking his own life. He was a funny, loving, and vibrant young man who is truly missed by all who knew him.
On this day, every moment, every dream, everything about our family and our future changed. On this very day we started living every parent’s worst nightmare. The days, weeks and months following his death are still such a haze, but we still remember the support we immediately received from not just Monroe, but all the surrounding communities.
We were wrapped up in love and support by so many people; old friends, new friends and complete strangers. Our family received so many generous memorial donations in Jacob’s memory. As days passed Kurt and I knew that we wanted to pay it forward to the area kids. Jacob was so involved in sports, the YMCA and the community. We made donations to several area groups in his honor and memory. We also wanted to donate a portion to the Monroe School District to bring in a speaker or program for middle and high schools. We requested that this program touch on the topics of suicide prevention, bullying and making good life choices. We want kids to know that it is okay if they feel different and it is okay to talk about it. Also, we wanted kids to know that if a friend is talking about hurting themselves, they need to pass this information on to a trusted adult. The teenager years can be some of the best times, but also some of the hardest times.
Through a financial contribution from Jacob’s SWAG, the Monroe District brought in retired NFL player Shawn Harper. Shawn travels the nation talking about suicide prevention, his struggles and making good life choices. He came into the middle and high schools and took the attention of the students, and left a mark with many of the students knowing they are worth it and they can achieve anything they set their minds to. To this day, kids are still referencing the program from Shawn and his message. After this program, Kurt and I had two different families come up to us and say “thank you.” We in return asked them, “Thank you for what?” These parents told us their stories about how their children were impacted by Shawn Harper’s message and came to them in the days following his program and talked to them. Both of the students told their parents that they had thought of hurting themselves and they needed to talk to someone.
Also, we were notified by a school that a student came to school one morning and told a teacher that she was very concerned about her friend that had talked about hurting herself, and had stayed home from school that day. With the quick action of the school and other departments, this child received the help they were so desperately needing and wanting.
As Jacob’s parents, these stories gave us the drive to make the teenage years better. We never wanted the kids to be denied a presentation like Shawn Harper’s due to financial reasons, so we vowed to try and raise enough funds every year to pass onto the schools. We want to support our communities by educating and supporting the teens and young adults. We want kids to be reminded that THEY MATTER! Something might be said from one person to another as a joke, but the person on the receiving end might not take it that way. A person with a soft heart might take those words to heart and effect them in a negative way.
These kids are the future, and we want them to know that their teachers, parents, and most adults, are here for them to talk to and to help them get through these years. They are worth it! It is okay to feel different and it is okay to talk about it.
Feeling depression and anxiety is normal, especially for teenagers. All the work and effort put into the Jacob’s SWAG Foundation is for our youth. If we can save any family or parents from traveling the path that our family is on, then our effort is worth it.