Ethan Park, a 16-year-old junior at West Ranch High School, tragically lost two teenage family members to suicide recently. Utterly devastated, he wanted to do something about it. He wanted to prevent others from feeling the same pain.
As a tennis player for his school, Park came up with the idea to host a tennis tournament to raise funds for the JED Foundation — a New York-based non-profit started by parents, who lost their youngest son to suicide, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
This all came to fruition on Saturday at West Ranch, where 32 of his fellow classmates, and others, showed up to participate in a benefit tournament.
“I never expected this amount of people to come and it really means a lot to me and my family,” said Park. “I love the energy here and the atmosphere, hopefully it continues throughout the whole tournament.”
Park noted the irony, albeit a positive irony, that so many came out to support a cause which is driven by tragedy often causing feelings of isolation and loneliness. He said he loved his friends for helping him set the whole thing up, who were more than eager to do it. Park hoped that anyone struggling with depression or having thoughts of suicide knows that there are people also that are more than eager to help them.
“That is why so many people take their lives, because of suicide, because they feel alone and I want more tournaments to happen, So more people know about what we do and what we care for,” said Park.
Arav Shah, Park’s teammate and classmate, was one of those friends that did not hesitate when Park asked for help.
“It feels amazing, man. I mean, I didn’t actually expect this many people to sign up. We specifically wanted to have it in September and we, you know, didn’t have as much time to plan it. But hey, we got everyone here,” said Shah. “There’s more people than I could have thought so I’m more than grateful for everyone.”
Kaden Sasaki, another one of Park’s teammates, classmates and friends, echoed exactly what his fellow co-organizers felt when it came to reaching out for help.
“Everyone is affected, no matter if they’re personally affected, or if it’s someone from their family or a friend. Everyone should be aware of everyone else and try to help each other,” said Sasaki.
Event organizers said the tournament raised over $4,000 during the first day and was expected to exceed $5,000 on the next.