The grand finale color burst. Photo by Chuck Rhodes
By Melanie Dobson
The rain held off long enough for 218 runners to receive their colors and the 37 volunteers to "paint" them pretty. A grand finale blast of color was shot in the air, winners were announced and the crowd settled in as Theresa French's singing set a reflective mood before the parents of teenagers lost to suicide spoke.
Tammy Ruud said this was the first time she had publicly talked about her son Nathan's suicide. Standing alone as she began to read, she struggled with tears; her husband Rich and friend Chris Stuart came along side her for support.
Her speech is as follows:
"Drugs, alcohol, a poor student, bad family life, defiant, angry, depressed or lost looking... Seems like some of the characteristics of someone who would take their own life, right?
"Our son, Nathan, was not only none of these but he was athletic, could sing, was a decent student, had friends, caring, kind hearted, funny. He was respectful, had a good home, a beautiful soul and treated me like a gentleman would treat a lady. AND he gave me the best hugs. Nathan did not do drugs or drink and spent much of his down time hanging with his brother, Jake. They were almost like twins - many people thought they were twins!
"So Why? What happened?
"We don't know. There was no note; as far as we know there was no bullying and no one has told us if there were any issues. Part of me wishes I knew why Nathan did this, yet the other part is glad I don't know.
"There were times he was too quiet. The day Nathan died I had told my co-worker that he concerned me. Nathan was having problems sleeping yet when I asked him what was wrong he'd either say "I don't know" or "nothing". He didn't want to worry me. I told him to talk to someone about it - even if it wasn't me he talked to. I didn't know if this was just being a 15 year old boy thing or what. I guess it wasn't. When I think about it I should have known to get Nathan some help as my oldest child had some sleeping issues and that is when I found out she was dealing with depression.
"I feel if Nathan would have thought about things a little more he wouldn't have done this. He would not have hurt me/us like this. See, taking your own life doesn't affect just you - if affects MANY people. Parents, brothers or sisters, grandparents, friends, friend's parents, cousins, aunts and uncles...and the list can go on and on.
"No parent should have to make funeral arrangements for their child. Whether it be from cancer, a car accident, other illnesses and especially from suicide. I think I've made some of the toughest phone calls I hope I ever have to make. One was to my husband that works in the Cities. How was I to tell him to get his stuff packed up and get home now, there's an emergency. I had to tell him that his child is dead. Then I had to worry about him driving home. It was the longest night of my life. The other tough call was to my parents to tell them that their grandchild is dead. Our beautiful Nathan is gone.
"My life has changed in that I live with some sadness every day. That as a parent I am probably more concerned that my other kids may do the same thing. You spend some time trying to figure out what you, as a parent, did wrong and what could you have done to prevent it. I have no answers. I do know that I can not dwell on it day after day or I would drive myself nuts. That does no one any good. You must live for today, for tomorrow is never guaranteed.
"What also has changed are the dreams I had for Nathan. I know I used to think about what he'd look like on his wedding day, the beautiful woman he'd find, the great dad he'd be, the kind of job he'd have, or maybe even be an outfield for the Twins. Those dreams were gone...in an instant.
"My heart breaks nearly every day for the loss of my beautiful Nathan. But I am glad that I had my precious gift for 15 years than to never have known him at all.
"So what I say to you, if you have any thoughts of hurting yourself - think deeper than just the here and now. And maybe more important TELL someone about your thoughts. There is help out there. It doesn't have to be a therapist or a pastor. It can be your friend, your friend's parent, a teacher, a co-worker, some other trusted person in your community, a school resource officer, even the school secretary - someone like me! Yes, me. You can find me on Facebook and I'd even be happy to give you my number. TALK - TELL SOMEONE! YOU are important! YOU have potential that maybe hasn't been uncovered yet. YOU can make a difference. YOU are special! YOU have a choice - make it a wise choice. YOU are beautiful!"
"You said you weren't a professional speaker!" Robert Sikel said after Tammy finished. Robert is the father of Jacob Sikel who was lost to suicide in 2012. Other members of Jacob's family came up with Robert. He and Jacob's step-dad, Jeff Howe, addressed the crowd. They thanked everyone for the support, "Without all of you we couldn't be doing this" Robert said.
The Sikel family has become immersed in the Yellow Ribbon Project; whose mission is"... raise public awareness and prevent suicide through education and training of individuals and communities and to partner with supporting networks to save lives." All the proceeds from the Be Bright Save a Life Color Run will go to the Yellow Ribbon Project.
Kim Swanson said she was extremely proud of her students who worked so hard to make it happen. With volunteers and runners there was a total of 255 people involved in the event.