September 19, 2012 - Many rode bicycles. Others walked.
During the Tour de Shane Bike-a-thon over the weekend, Shelly Pilette (from left), Kallee Knight and Jordan Pilette, a 2009 Oxford High School graduate, took a moment to read the messages carved into a wooden bench near the grave of Shane Hrischuk in Ridgelawn Memorial Cemtery in Oxford. Shane took his own life back in late January. He would have been 15 years old on Saturday. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Many came because they knew Shane Hrischuk or his family. Others because they wanted to help raise awareness and save lives.
But it really doesn't matter how they chose to participate or what motivated them to come.
What matters is more than 500 people, both youth and adults, took part Saturday morning in the First Annual Tour de Shane bike-a-thon on the Polly Ann Trail.
"We have the best friends in the world and we live in the best community," said Michelle Hrischuk, Shane's mother. "I cannot thank you guys enough . . . The volunteers did a great job. We could not do this without you."
"It's just amazing – all the support, everyone helping out," said Joe Hrischuk, Shane's father. "It means the world to me because Shane meant the world to me. I don't know what words to use (to describe it). It's just unbelievable."
"Thank you to the community and thank you to all the sponsors," he added. "Michelle did an outstanding job (organizing this)."
Back in late January, Shane, a popular eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School took his own life. The sudden death of this student, who excelled both academically and athletically, made a profound impact on the community as a whole.
The Tour de Shane is designed to raise money to set up an Oxford-based program that promotes suicide prevention, awareness and counseling for students and parents through local schools and churches. Although an exact total was not yet available, Michelle said they raised well over $10,000.
"It's a problem in Lake Orion and Oxford," said Michelle, referring to the three former OHS students who have committed suicide this year. "We don't know why."
During the bike-a-thon's closing ceremony, a group of Shane's friends were asked to come up to the outdoor stage at Christ the King Church on W. Drahner Rd.
"This right here is why we're doing this," Michelle said. "We need to start saving morelives out there . . . I want all these kids here with us next year."
Each of Shane's friends held up a sign bearing a different sobering statistic about suicide. For example, 56 teens complete suicide every day in the United States. For every four males that attempt suicide, one is successful. For every nine females that attempt suicide, one is successful.
Sixty percent of high school students report thinking about suicide. Fourteen percent of seventh and eighth-graders report they have tried to commit suicide. Suicide for ages 10 to 14 has increased 120 percent since 1980.
"These kids are at the highest (risk) for suicide," Michelle said. "Sad, but true. Two girls and one boy in every classroom in the middle school and the high school have suicidal thoughts. This has got to stop.
"We've got to get in these schools and these churches and start talking about this. We talk about drugs and alcohol and sex . . . but we're not talking to these young adults or young kids and teenagers about suicide."
Michelle explained that even though suicide is officially listed as the third-leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds in the United States, "we've been told over and over it's Number Two."
"People hide it – they lie about it and say it was an accident," she said. "Joe and I knew from the minute that this happened (to Shane) that there was no way we could say it was an accident and lie. We knew we had to help people and that's our goal."
Michelle noted how suicide is often an "impulse decision" for young people.
"They don't know that tomorrow's going to be a better day," she said. Michelle believes her son's suicide was an impulse decision.
It was noted that the Tour de Shane took place on what should have been Shane's 15th birthday.
"This is not a birthday party for Shane," Michelle said. "He should be here with us."
Having this event and all these people supporting this cause on Shane's birthday "helps, but it's still hard," Joe said. "It helps keep your mind going."
Michelle made it clear while she wants to celebrate Shane's life and help others, she does not wish to glorify his actions.
"We want to remember him, but we do not want to idolize what he did," she said.
Many of Shane's friends and classmates participated in the bike-a-thon as a way to pay tribute to his memory.
"I rode as much as I could for him because I just miss him a lot," said OHS freshman Alivia Lester. "From fourth grade to seventh grade, we hung out everyday in the summer and stuff. We were pretty close friends. I love him and miss him. Happy birthday, Shane."
Shane's smile, laugh and sense of humor are what many friends will miss most about him.
"He had a great laugh – it was so big," said OHS freshman Olivia Schassburger, who noted she was there to support Shane and his family. "I love you Joe and Michelle very much – stay strong. Happy birthday, Shane. I love you."
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.