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.

alone

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*.

BT

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.

Friendly Friday – Kim Randall

Are you familiar with the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Walt Disney World? You know, the one with the little boat that that takes you around the world (so to speak) and shows you how we’re all interconnected, all the while filling your head with the mother of all ear worms.

It’s a small world after all …. it’s a small, small world.

Well, the world of social media is like that. If you spend a good amount of time on one of the bigger social media platforms, you’ll quickly come to find that most of the ‘players’ in that arena seem to know each other or are connected in some shape, way, or form. This is especially true with Twitter. Twitter, to me, is a more open space than other platforms, and seems to the general meeting place of the social media world. If Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and others are ‘rooms’ in a hotel, then Twitter is the lobby where most people congregate.

I am fortunate to have a healthy online presence, and I cherish my circle of social media friends. However, when I think back to how I got plugged into this small world, one of the people I always point to is my friend Kim Randall.

Kim is a fun-loving and inspiring woman. She also happens to own her own social media marketing company, and has helped launch or coordinate a number of other social media related services or brands. When I starting putting together a list of Kim’s entrepreneurial exploits, I quickly found it to be quite exhaustive. Here are a few:

I first me Kim when she was a presenter of a Tampa-area social media class. We exchanged information and, of course, connected on Twitter. We both took part in organizing the Epic Thanks Tampa Bay event back in 2010, and we’ve been good friends since.

Kim is a great resource when it comes to social media and online marketing. She really knows her stuff, and has been very successful in building a presence for various brands and companies. I know whenever I am in a jam with either a question or a ‘how do I do this’ moment, I can reach out to Kim for an answer.

What I love most about her, however, is that despite her incredible success and unmatched expertise in her arena, there’s no pretentiousness about her. Kim is a down-to-earth and easy to get along with person. In the ever-evolving world of social media, she’s the first to tell you there is no such thing as a ‘social media expert’, and Kim understands the vast majority of people still consider themselves novices when it comes to inter-connectivity in an online community.

I am very blessed to have Kim as a peer, mentor, and friend. And if you’re on Twitter, it’s very likely she’s already a connection of yours, too. If not, be sure to follow her at @_kimrandall. You can also check out her endeavors by following the links listed above.

In our ever-shrinking world, Kim Randall is a great person to know.

Happy Friday.

Kim Randall

Friendly Friday – Courtney Perry

Serendipity. I like that word. I like what it means (an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident), and I like what it stands for. Some people claim serendipity is a function of fate. Others think it’s simply a matter of luck or coincidence. As for me, my personal philosophy is that coincidence is God showing off, and serendipity is just another way of describing God’s mysterious ways.

Lee and I volunteer as leaders of growth groups through our church. Growth groups are semester long sessions in which we meet as a small group and study either a book or a particular part of the Bible, etc. The purpose of growth groups is fellowship and to do life together with the other members of our church. It’s all about expanding the ministry from inside the walls of our church building to inside the homes of others.

Due to logistics and my general laziness to keep my house tidy, our particular group was hosted at the house of our friends Mark and Renee. Through the course of several semesters, we got to know Mark and Renee very well, and by extension – as well as through the power of the Internet and social media – we got to meet and know their four daughters as well. We’ve met two in person and connected with the other two online. And there is one daughter in particular I’d like to introduce you to.

As a blogger, I like to read other bloggers’ work. I will be the first to admit, however, that it is very hard sometimes to keep up with all my friends’ blogs. RSS readers come in handy, but sometimes I just need to stay up late and do nothing but read, read, read. And how I thoroughly enjoy reading the words of Courtney Perry.

Courtney writes in an open and unabashed fashion that makes her words ring true and connect easily with the reader. Not only is her writing transparent, a writing style which I greatly admire, but she is also clever, witty, and thought-provokingly deep. Courtney is refreshingly honest, and her work has opened my eyes to the world of food allergies, sleeping disorders, and anxiety. Not only has it opened my eyes, but it’s also caught the attention of editors at The Huffington Post. She’s had multiple pieces featured on Huff Post, her most recent this past Tuesday about conquering panic attacks

I like to think Courtney and I have established a great online camaraderie, and I look forward to each of her posts. As I think about how it came to be that that I was introduced to her brilliant writing, I truly believe it was not mere chance, but rather God putting His serendipitous plans in motion. After all, us bloggers have to stick together.

Courtney Perry

Be sure to check out and follow Courtney’s personal blog at theothercourtney.com

Democracy 2.0

Lee and I love being geeks together, and part of that mutual geekdom leads us to get involved in events like Democracy 2.0, a panel discussion featuring representatives from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp. The event is being hosted by Social Media Club Tampa Bay, a group of which Lee and I are members.

To add to the awesome geekiness, here is some pre-event coverage we received thanks to Jeremy Campbell and our friends at Fox 13 News in Tampa.

If you’re in Tampa on Saturday, August 25 and can make it to the event, we’d love to have you join us.

214/365 Making A Plan

As we work to re-launch the Social Media Club Tampa Bay, we met tonight to discuss the planning of an event we’ll be hosting on August 25. The event will be a panel discussion featuring representatives from Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp! (with the possibility of adding representatives from other social media platforms), all of whom will be in Tampa covering the Republican National Convention.

It’s going to be fun and exciting event, and I am very much looking forward to being a part of it.

 

201/365 Part Of The Club?

I love my circle of friends, especially those with whom I run in social media circles. Today, we met up with the idea of launching a Tampa chapter of Social Media Club. It was great to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones that share my passion of social media.

Here’s hoping tonight’s meeting leads to very awesome things in the Tampa Bay area.