Participants gathered at Lister Park for the all-day events
On August 7, The Ryan Patrick O’Shea Foundation returned to Lister Park to hold its second annual Rise Up for Ryan 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament and Suicide Awareness Walk to raise money for the foundation’s continued work to increase mental health awareness local schools and communities.
The tournament had male and female divisions from elementary school age to adults battling it out in half court games on the park’s four courts from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. After a year off due to Covid, John and Mary O’Shea, the founders of the non-profit organization, were excited to be back out in the community.
“Our first event was so full of love and joy,” Mary O’Shea said. “It was probably the happiest day of my life because of our community. And to do it again today fills my heart.” The O’Sheas lost their son Ryan to suicide during his first year at Iona College 2019. Since then, the O’Sheas and their board have worked to create an atmosphere in schools and communities where those suffering in silence feel they can talk about their struggles.
John O’Shea said the idea for a basketball tournament came from Ryan’s love for the game. “Basketball was the love of his life,” O’Shea said. “He would play anywhere anytime and teach people how to play so he would have more people to play it with.” Ryan was a star player for the South Side High School Cyclones.
During the basketball tournament, spectators and players were encouraged to join a Suicide Awareness Walk around the park to have the conversations needed to help people realize they are not alone. The walk saw participants wear colored bead necklaces that correlated to different family and friends who have been lost to suicide.
The path around the park was lined with painted stones made by volunteers with messages like “Make this world a kinder place,” and “You are not alone.” Participants were also encouraged to start conversations about the beads they wore, who they lost, and how they are doing mentally.
“We do this to bring the community together,” John O’Shea said. “And hopefully at the end of the day we can understand that there are people all around us that suffer and that you need to be able to find that person.”
Senator Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin joined the O’Sheas on the morning walk. “They’ve lit a candle instead of cursing the darkness,” Senator Kaminsky said of the O’Sheas. “And I know they’re saving people.”
The foundation has committed to spending roughly $125,000 this year to fund programs in the village and surrounding communities that raise awareness for and end the stigma towards mental health struggles. Those programs have included providing therapy dogs at South Side High School, and mindfulness and yoga classes into elementary schools.
The foundation has also brought in Sources of Strength, a national suicide prevention program which debuted at South Side High School this past school year. John O’Shea described the program as “proactive rather than reactive.” The program trains students and teachers on how to support and empower people going through mental struggles.
The O’Sheas plan on bringing the program to each Rockville Centre and Freeport elementary school and Oceanside High School in the fall.