It’s About Prevention

My son is fifteen years old and he just started his sophomore year in high school. This year he will attend school with one less classmate. You see, back in June, Tovonna Holton, who was also fifteen and also preparing for her second year of high school, took her own life. Tovonna lived a quarter-mile down the street from my son.

Suicide creates a profound impact, whether directly or tangentially. And although the circumstances surrounding Tovonna’s death are in debate – did she take her life because of cyber-bullying, or was it because of domestic issues in her home – the end result is the same. A young girl struggling with pressure and crisis in her life took a handgun and killed herself.

Crisis can feel insurmountable. It can be overwhelming. When left solely on the shoulders of an individual, it can be tragic.


Two years ago, our friend Susie took her life. I can honestly say things haven’t felt the same since. But we don’t just let it end there, with the grief and the “what if’s”. We take the pain and the anguish and the heartache, and we channel it in hopes that no one else ever has to feel those same emotions.

That’s the thing about suicide; it is 100% preventable.

On Wednesday, August 31, The RITZ Ybor is hosting Beer and Bowties Tampa Bay, a fundraising event from which all proceeds go to suicide prevention and awareness. The team that founded Beer and Bowties have partnered with the Tampa Bay Crisis Center in order to bring people together to strip away the taboos that surround the conversations of suicide and shed light on the epidemic that claimed over forty thousand American lives in 2014*.


The mission of the Tampa Bay Crisis Center is to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone, and awareness is critical in curbing the suicide rate in our country. Knowing there are people and organizations that are willing to help is the difference between someone choosing to end it all and someone taking that first step towards getting better.

I encourage you to join us on August 31 in the hopes of having an effect in the life of someone struggling with crisis and confusion. If not, I trust this post serves as a reminder of the resources that are available to those contemplating suicide. Remember, 2-1-1 is a free, 24/7 helpline that connects individuals to essential health and human services.

Whether it’s someone with whom you work, attend school, or who lives just down the street, we all have a role to play in helping prevent suicide.



*Source: Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Click here to see video by Vox regarding the impact of guns on suicide.

It Is Fleeting

Inertia can be a powerful thing. As we learned in school, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Life has its parallels to inertia. Once we get busy or lost in the routine of day to day, we tend to keep on moving with the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

Until something makes it all stop.

The Tampa Bay community lost a remarkable and talented person last Friday. Susie Steiner was CEO of ExecuTran Services Inc., as well as co-founder of StartUp Weekend Tampa Bay. Not only was she an influential and dynamic business leader, she was also a warm, fun loving woman who had the ability to light up a room. I had the pleasure of working with Susie in the past, but more importantly, I have the honor of being able to have called her a friend.

As with most things in life, however, the opportunities for us to interact became fewer and fewer as time passed by.

The news of her passing was like a ton of bricks. Instantly, shockingly, and inexplicably she was gone. That next time for us to get together will never be. The reality that I won’t see her again still hasn’t set in. The surreal feeling about her no longer being with us is like a fog in my brain.

Susie loved enjoying life. Be it her business, her entrepreneurial endeavors, or game night at her house, there was a vivacious spirit about everything she did. She was electrifying and beautiful both inside and out. Interacting with her on Twitter and Facebook always brought a smile to my face, and I will forever cherish the fun memories we shared on Rock Boat XI. Susie’s work and determination will always be an inspiration to me. Her spirit will live on in the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who had the pleasure of knowing her. Her passing is saddening, but there’s no doubt her life will be celebrated and remembered for years to come.

Still, I can’t help but wish there was one more opportunity to hang out with Susie. One more evening of telling stories, sharing laughs, and just watching her enjoy life to the fullest. How I wish this past weekend was not a reminder of how fleeting life can be, and how we all must make the time to create the moments that really matter.

As we remember Susie and say goodbye to radiant person she was, I can’t help but think of the lyrics from a Billy Joel song. “So many faces in and out of my life, some will last, some will just be now and then. Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes, I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.”


Image via FB/KimRandall
Image via FB/KimRandall


Rest in Peace, Susie. May your beauty remain forever emblazoned in our memories, and your brilliance shine forever in our hearts.