Saving our Sons: The ‘Helping Boys Thrive’ summit

SPOKANE, Wash. — Through heartbreak, the family of a local teenager who died by suicide is now offering hope to others.

The Erickson family lost their son, Kellen, two years ago.

Kellen’s friends and family remember him for his warmth and beautiful smile. But behind those eyes was a teenager and athlete who was struggling with depression and the uncertainty of life after high school.

“I think it’s a combination of moving on to college. You’re graduating, your identity has been wrapped up in sports and that was it. No more competitive sports. And so, he just questioned who he was altogether,” his mom Kimber said.

Just months after graduating from Ferris High School, the unthinkable happened and Kellen died by suicide.

The Ericksons felt called to act almost immediately after his death, so they created the Kellen Cares Foundation.

This Saturday, their foundation will host the “Helping Boys Thrive” summit, which is aimed at helping other parents prevent tragedies like the one that took their son.

“We’re just trying to provide a roadmap or any sort of resource. And if it saves one person, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Kellen’s dad Mike said.

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The Ericksons found that boys die by suicide almost four times more than girls. So, Kellen Cares aims to celebrate and uplift boys.

“I think right now, there’s a lot of negativity towards them. That they’re lazy and they’re unambitious. And we need to look at ourselves a little bit more and say, ‘Are we doing all we can to lift them up and see their amazing sense of humor and how they’re going to thrive?'” said Kellen’s uncle, Kelly Risse.

Risse posted a series of videos on his physical therapy office’s Facebook page, hoping other grown men can share their vulnerabilities with their boys.

“They’re looking up to us as, ‘Man, these guys are all dialed,’ and they need to know that we lack that confidence and we hurt every day and we’re scared and we make mistakes and it’s okay,” Risse said.

The Helping Boys Thrive summit will help struggling families take a step forward. It will feature professionals and educators, including Dr. Michael Gurian, a best-selling author and family therapist from Spokane. The event will also address the effects of social media on boys, as well as drugs and alcohol.

“Instead of feeling lost and alone, the idea is ‘Let’s bring some education and awareness and then some really good resources to lift these guys up,’ and the summit is the first step,” Risse said.

But along with the education, Kellen Cares wants families to leave the summit with one other very important thing.

“Hope. We want to have hopeful parents come out of this. Hopeful parents that want to just look into everything and just be aware,” Kimber said.

The Helping Boys Thrive summit will take place all day Saturday at Summit Church at 29th and Pittsburg. Families can register for the event here. 

READ: Saving our Sons: Spokane family vows to help others after losing their son to suicide