Hinderman: Fundraiser planned to help prevent child suicide
BY LAURA HINDERMAN Citizen firstname.lastname@example.org April 8, 2014 7:22PM
AnnMarie Blaha | Supplied photo
Updated: April 11, 2014 5:30PM
“Unimaginable. Unthinkable. Unfathomable.
“There are no words to describe the loss of a child. And when that child is a well-loved, energetic and seemingly happy 11-year-old girl, it is devastating to learn that her death was a suicide.”
— AnnMarie Foundation
AnnMarie Blaha was a loving, bright and beautiful young girl who had a passion for helping others.
She lived among us in Orland Park, attended the schools here and loved her bunny, Skittles, along with all living things. She played volleyball and was a Girl Scout.
Colleen Flimanowicz’s two daughters, Jenna and Paige, were close friends of AnnMarie, and she described AnnMarie as a softhearted girl who “loved caring for the underdog.” The girls met in kindergarten when AnnMarie defended Jenna at the bus stop.
Sadly, AnnMarie died in June.
“While we are powerless to change the past, we can begin healing through service to others,” in the words of the foundation.
Filmanowicz said AnnMarie’s death caused her to explain to her young children a devastating set of circumstances that really have no explanation, no reason, no clear answers. Her focus now is to help the family and educate others to try to avoid this from happening again.
AnnMarie’s passion for helping others came naturally. Her parents, Susan and Mike Blaha, spend their lives serving others in their professions and were the role models who cultivated AnnMarie’s caring soul.
Orland Hills police Detective John McHale all too often has comforted grieving families after suicide. A police officer for 18 years, six in Orland Hills, he said his goal is “to increase awareness of this epidemic because it is a sensitive issue, and not keep it secret. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or suicidal ideation, I urge you please ... Choose life and seek help immediately.”
There are many avenues for assistance, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
McHale believes that every life is worth saving at any cost.
“I would rather have you mad at me the rest of your life for taking action to save you from yourself in your darkest hour, than to let you think that suicide is an option,” he said.
Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds and is trending upward. Unfortunately, too many people dismiss the potential for preteen suicide because they think children at that age will not follow through.
McHale provided three keys for suicide prevention — understanding that suicide is not a way out; prevention by giving people skills to recognize the symptoms of depression; and coping with suicide by not glamorizing the event, as is prevalent in much of today’s entertainment.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) and Out of the Darkness, which organizes community walks to raise funds and awareness, provide staggering statistics.
A half-hour into our meeting, McHale reminded me that two people in the U.S. had taken their lives during that time — one every 13.7 minutes, or about 38,000 each year. That was sobering.
In an effort to spotlight youth suicide, bullying and Internet safety, the inaugural AnnMarie Foundation Fundraiser will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. May 4 at Orland Chateau, 14500 LaGrange Road, Orland Park.
The money donated will be used to build awareness and provide education on these topics. Guest lecturers and educational materials will be available.
The Blahas started the foundation as a way of “continuing what was important to (AnnMarie). If this tragedy can happen to our daughter, it can happen to someone else’s child,” they said.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance at www.annmariefoundation.com. The cost is $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6 to 12, and it’s free for those under 5. There will be a buffet, musical entertainment and speakers plus activities for kids, raffles and a silent auction.
Those unable to attend may donate to the AnnMarie Foundation at First Midwest Bank or through www.annmariefoundation.com.