February 01, 2012 - There's a hole in the heart of the Oxford community as a young life brimming with potential and talent was snuffed out much too early by suicide.
Wildcat country is mourning the tragic loss of Shane Philip Hrischuk, an eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School who shot himself at his home Jan. 25 with a .45 caliber handgun belonging to his father, according to Oakland County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford Township substation.
The 14-year-old died the next day at the hospital after being kept alive by life support so his organs could be harvested to save others.
It was later reported his donations helped six people.
"Losing Shane has been the greatest tragedy of my teaching career," said OMS teacher Melissa Gibbons. "To me, Shane was a leader. He demonstrated that leadership in the classroom and in the hallways. I'm saddened to know that, at least for a moment, Shane (was the one who) needed help instead of helping others."
Patterson said Shane left behind no note or other form of communication explaining why he killed himself. A statement released by his aunt, Colleen Hrischuk, indicated the family does not know why Shane took his own life and it may never know the reason.
Following Shane's death there were many rumors and much speculation, particularly on Facebook, indicating he may have been the victim of bullying.
"We did not discover any evidence that bullying was the reason behind any of this," said Sheriff's Det. Jason Louwaert. "If somebody else has information that that's not the case, we are open to listening to what people have and we will check into whatever source of information they refer us to. But as of this time, we haven't found any evidence that bullying was a contributing factor in this."
Shane's absence is definitely being felt at OMS as he was an extremely popular student who was respected for his helpful attitude, admired for his natural leadership and beloved for his sense of humor.
Shane Hrischuk, as a seventh-grader, comes barrelling down the inflatable slide during the OMS “Master of the House” competition in April 2011. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
"Shane Hrischuk made an impression on every adult and child he has ever come in contact with," said OMS teacher Kristin McDonough. "Shane was born a leader. He accepted everyone without judgment and was welcoming to everyone around him."
"The way he interacted with everyone in the class, no matter who they were, was something I noticed very early in the year," Gibbons said. "He seemed much more mature than his peers."
"He had a profound effect on everyone because he was a good student and you knew that you could partner him up with anyone and he would be willing to work with them," said OMS Counselor Ryan Kline.
"He was a joy to be around," noted OMS teacher Brian Cisneros. "One thing I'll never forget about him is his Mickey Mouse impression. He greeted (me) almost daily with a Mickey Mouse 'hello.' He was a real character."
No one who met him will ever forget Shane's smile.
"My fondest memory of Shane will always be that infectious smile of his," said Jake Trotter, who coached Shane on the eighth-grade boys basketball team.
Teacher Jason Cady, who also coached Shane in basketball, said his smile "could melt the coldest of hearts."
"His smile was one that would light up a room," McDonough said.
Given his outgoing personality and willingness to pitch in wherever and whenever he was needed, it was no surprise that Shane was a WEB leader at the middle school.
WEB stands for "Where Everybody Belongs" and it's a program designed to help sixth-graders make the transition from elementary school to OMS.
Eighth-grade students serve as WEB leaders. It's their job to be role models, mentors and motivators when it comes to helping the sixth-graders succeed at OMS and feel a sense of belonging.
"They definitely looked up to him and he connected well with them," said Kline, who started the WEB program at the middle school. "He was very genuine."
"When our students looked to a peer to help brighten their day, it was Shane they sought out," McDonough said. "He was always the first person to volunteer to help a fellow student."
In addition to excelling as both a student and school leader, Shane was also quite the athlete, playing baseball, football and basketball along with running track.
All of his coaches agreed that having Shane on the team was most definitely an asset.
"Shane was a fierce competitor," Cady said. "To me, Shane exemplified (how powerful) a positive attitude and a strong work ethic can be."
Cady and Trotter recalled how Shane went from a seventh-grader who failed to make the basketball team to one of the best players on the eighth-grade team.
"After getting to know Shane, this type of improvement wasn't that surprising and instead embodied the type of person he was," Trotter said.
OMS Track Coach Gayle Tucker will miss Shane's dedication and example to others.
"He would stay after practice to run through the hurdles one more time, just to improve his form for the next meet," she said. "We will use Shane as our role model for the upcoming season. His personality, work ethic and potential in life will be sorely missed by all."
Kline, who also coaches OMS track, noted how Shane was "always willing to help" his teammates improve their performance by instructing them on the proper way to hand off a baton during a relay race or jump a hurdle.
Although Shane didn't hold the title of captain, he was definitely a team leader to Kline.
Shane is survived by his parents Joseph and Michelle Hrischuk; brother Corey; grandparents Donald Aitken and Patricia and Jeff Rector; uncle and aunt Brian and Colleen Hrischuk; godfather Brian Boreo; cousins Erik and Jake; and many other extended family members and friends. He was preceded in death by his grandmother Jeanne Aitken.
A funeral Mass was held on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Lake Orion. Arrangements were through Modetz Funeral Home in Orion Township.
Interment was at Ridgelawn Memorial Cemetery in Oxford Village.
Suggested memorials to the "Shane Hrischuk Memorial Fund" c/o Chase Bank (990 S. Lapeer Rd.) in Oxford. On-line guestbook at www.modetzfuneralhomes.com.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.