Will to Live - Love Ya Man!!
In 2010, Will Trautwein was fifteen, a leader, an athlete, a good student and showed no outward signs of depression. He had a loving family and many things to live for. However, he suffered without others knowing and committed suicide.
At Will’s funeral, his father John, a former major league baseball pitcher, noted the number of teammates who came to show their love and support. John realized those on- and off-field friendships could make the difference for others.
John explains, “At the funeral, we realized that the greatest friends we’ll ever meet in life, our life friends, who we now refer to as ‘Life Teammates,’ are those we met when we were teenagers.”
The Trautwein family established the non-profit Will To Live (WTL) Foundation to help prevent teen suicide and improve the lives and “will to live” of teenagers everywhere. It helps young people recognize the wonderful relationships that already exist in their daily lives, in hopes that they will reach out to one another in times of need. The foundation encourages teens to say to each other, every day, “Love ya, man!”
Through mental health education and by encouraging teens to recognize the love and hope that exists in each other, the Will To Live Foundation addresses the stigma of mental health issues, delivers hope, and promotes the importance of Life Teammates®.
In 2014, John coached a travel baseball team. Team Will To Live consisted of 13-year-olds from around the Johns Creek, GA area. They concluded their season by playing in the weeklong Ripken Experience tournament, in Myrtle Beach, SC. After each game, Team WTL players met the other team on the pitcher’s mound. They gave the “Life Teammates” speech and handed out “Love Ya Man” wristbands as well. It was so well received that the Ripken Foundation became a supporter of Will To Live!
For The Kids, Through The Kids, By The Kids!
The WTL message resonates with those beyond the field. John recounts how, after a game, a little girl named Emma came up to him. She was the sister of a player on the Cooper City, FL team they had played the night before.
“She quietly said, ‘Hey Mister, I heard you talking to my brother’s team last night about your little boy who died – and my class had some extra money that we raised – so can I please give this to your foundation?’”
“Well, after I wiped away my tears, I hugged this little girl hard and gratefully accepted her $43.00 donation. It will enable more than 100 kids – approximately eight more baseball teams – to hear our message of hope and wear our wristbands to help spread awareness in their own communities. WTL was created by the kids and for the kids, and what Emma did on that sunny morning in Myrtle Beach makes all the efforts of the foundation worthwhile,” John said.
Suicide prevention is such an important topic. Programs like Will To Live help us all realize we need to look out for each other, pick each other up, and help each other to always find the good in all of life’s trials and difficult situations. Reach out to your Life Teammates and let them know how much they mean to you. It might save a life.