Kodye Fassbender was the kid his friends would go to seeking help with relationship problems or other difficulties that surface in the lives of high schoolers.
The extent of his role as his classmates’ counselor surprised his family. Finding out he was so unable to do the same for himself that he took his own life was a total shock.
“It took us completely out of left field,” Lisa Fassbender, his mom, said. “We felt very strongly, very quickly that we needed to tell his story, including the parts we didn’t like.”
They speak very openly with groups or individuals about the suicide, in hopes of sparing other families the intense pain they continue to feel every day. One way they are telling Kodye’s story is through a scholarship fund they used memorial gifts to establish in his name at the Community Foundation.
The Kodye Fassbender Memorial Scholarship Fund each year awards $500 toward the college costs of a graduating senior at Appleton North High School who is pursuing a career in mental health. Kodye was a sophomore at North when he died in May 2017.
Lisa said the scholarship is one of the ways to get the conversation about suicide started. Conversation builds awareness and the awareness can build on itself – in the same way, unfortunately, suicides can lead to more suicides.
She praised the in-school programs being developed to detect mental health problems or suicidal thoughts, including those in Hortonville, Neenah and Waupaca supported by Community Foundation grants.
Setting up the scholarship through the Community Foundation means the administrative work is handled, leaving Lisa, husband Mike and daughter Nycole more time to tell Kodye’s story.
“You guys have been amazing,” she said of the Foundation staff she has worked with. She described her initial meeting with Jill Muthig, Donor Services and Scholarship Manager, as sympathetic and without pressure. “The level of care and support you guys provide to us is amazingly incredible,” Lisa said. “When I cried, Jill cried.”
They continue to hear from other parents who lost a child to suicide. “Every time Kodye’s story appears somewhere, we get a new batch of people who reach out,” she said.
The family also learn of young people who called a suicide helpline after reading Kodye’s very honest obituary.
Even now, Kodye is providing counsel to other young people.
Thanks to the generosity of people, businesses and organizations with a passion for education who gave through the Foundation, 409 students headed to college this fall with $1.01 million in scholarships. Search for scholarships at: https://www.cffoxvalley.org/scholarships/