As the Ryan Bartel Foundation enters its fourth year of helping the Loudoun County youth it is working to expand its reach.
Started after the 2014 death by suicide of Ryan Bartel, a 17-year-old senior at Woodgrove High School, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent suicide by empowering youth through awareness, upstream educational programs and activities that support and provide connection, acceptance, hope, help and strength.
The Foundation is helping community leaders grapple with data that has seen anxiety, stress and depression, as well as suicide, among youth rise dramatically since 2014. A 2017-18 high school survey conducted by Loudoun County Public Schools indicated that 13 percent of students considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months, with 2 percent attempting suicide once and another 2 percent attempting it two or three times. LCPS has seen a significant increase in intensive case management around students’ mental health needs and an increase in home-bound requests. The Ryan Bartel Foundation is working to complement what LCPS, the mental health community and others are doing.
Since they started in 2015, Ryan’s parents, Suzie and Ben Bartel, have grown the Foundation’s board, budget and programs dramatically but acknowledge they are still at the early stages of what they want to accomplish.
“Ultimately, we want to become a center for educational programs, activities, information, resources and support for those who struggle so that they can go from feeling hopeless to hopeful about life,” Suzie Bartel said. “We want to play a constructive role in building a community of resilient, connected and compassionate youth where no one feels so alone and hopeless that they want to give up on life.”
The Foundation’s core programs include the We’re All Human/Sources of Strength mental wellness initiative in Loudoun schools. That began at Woodgrove High School in 2016 and now is offered in 12 high schools and eight middle schools. The Foundation also provides community training in Sources of Strength to any interested youth and adult group, from athletic groups, to summer camps. Its FORT programs, started in 2018 as a monthly, traveling teen center inviting young people to connect outside of school and take part in a half-day of workshops that expose them to resilience building tools, from art and music therapy, to meditation and yoga, and even animal-assisted activities. The Foundation also funds a scholarship program for high school seniors who have demonstrated acceptance of others inside their school, awarding $14,000 in scholarships so far.
From 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 6, the Foundation is hosting “Let It Be” at Breaux Vineyards, a fundraiser offering an afternoon of music, wine and food tasting to support the its 2019 programs. The afternoon will feature students in the Lyrica Chamber Orchestra of Syracuse University that includes Ryan’s brother, Jordan Barte, performing Bach to Beatles, along with storytelling by County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall and others. The Foundation is calling “Let It Be” an event filled with hope, connection, acceptance and strength, exemplifying its aspirational and upstream approach to preventing youth suicide and serving the community-at-large.
For details and tickets go to ryanbartelfoundation.org or call 703-431-3675.