Every parent’s nightmare happened to Tara Martin on March 17, 2017.
Her 14-year-old son, Tyler, committed suicide.
“There were no signs of depression with Tyler,” Martin said. “He was always happy, he had the best heart, and he would do anything for anyone. Tyler was an all-around great kid.”
What happened next points to the resilience of life – how we can get inspired to move beyond our tragedies, and why some people can think of others when life takes a turn for the worst.
Martin and friend Jessica Ponder started Behind the Smile, a nonprofit that helps families struggling with events like what happened to the Martins and works toward preventing teen suicide.
The organization’s mission statement spells it out:
“We want to educate today’s youth and their parents on what goes on behind the smile. People are suffering with anxiety, depression, and circumstances that make it seem as though all hope is lost. We want to reach them and let them know there is always help and always hope.”
Behind the Smile is holding a 5K color run in Rainbow City on Sept. 15 in honor of Tyler called TyDy4Tyler. The run will raise money for suicide risk awareness in local middle and high schools.
“Tyler loved 5Ks and he loved to run, so we wanted to do something like that to raise money,” Ponder said. “When Tyler passed away, everyone said the same thing: that he had this beautiful smile and was always smiling. That’s where we got the name.”
When Martin and Ponder started the run, they would have been happy with 100 runners; then 400 showed up. It was bigger than they ever thought. That meant so much for Martin.
“I knew we had to do something in his name or it would have been a huge injustice to him,” Martin said. “The support we have received from the community has just been overwhelming. My husband and I have always said if this would help one child or one family, it’s completely worth it.”
Life doesn’t always go as planned, but for Martin and Ponder that only means picking up the pieces and moving on, and inspiring others to be strong.
“For me, to see people come out to support, it’s just very humbling,” Ponder said. “When you see people give up their time, their money and their talents for something not directly affecting them, but something helping another person, it’s incredible.”
There is still time to sign up to run or show up just to offer support.
What began as a parental nightmare ended up an inspiration to so many people.
Life is resilient, indeed.
For more information about the run and to support Behind the Smile, visit https://www.facebook.com/behindthesmileinc/.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected]