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updated: 8/8/2013 5:50 AM

Teen's suicide inspires Arlington Heights family to give back

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  • Rolling Meadows High School senior Megan Baumgartner, of Arlington Heights, committed suicide in 2007. For the past five years, her family has hosted a golf outing in her memory to raise money for Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, a counseling group that helped them through that dark time. This year's golf outing will be Saturday at Maple Meadows Country Club in Wood Dale.

      Rolling Meadows High School senior Megan Baumgartner, of Arlington Heights, committed suicide in 2007. For the past five years, her family has hosted a golf outing in her memory to raise money for Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, a counseling group that helped them through that dark time. This year's golf outing will be Saturday at Maple Meadows Country Club in Wood Dale.
    courtesy of Fran Baumgartner

  • Four days before she committed suicide, Megan Baumgartner, 18, of Arlington Heights, was all smiles with her best friend, Danielle Coffin. The Remembering Megan Golf Outing Saturday at Maple Meadows Country Club in Wood Dale will raise money for Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide.

      Four days before she committed suicide, Megan Baumgartner, 18, of Arlington Heights, was all smiles with her best friend, Danielle Coffin. The Remembering Megan Golf Outing Saturday at Maple Meadows Country Club in Wood Dale will raise money for Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide.
    courtesy of Fran Baumgartner

 
 

After her 18-year-old daughter committed suicide in 2007, Arlington Heights mom Fran Baumgartner didn't know how she was going to carry on.

But within 48 hours of the funeral, she and her family were being helped by Catholic Charities' free, nondenominational counseling service, Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, or LOSS. They continued their counseling there for the next two years.

"I don't think I could have gotten out of bed without the help they gave us. I couldn't even wrap my mind around what had happened," Baumgartner said. "But they reassure you, they give you things to read, and they offer professional counseling for free. They were never judgmental."

Even though LOSS is run by Catholic Charities, people of all religions were in the counseling groups. Some became the Baumgartners' lifelong friends.

"No one understands the way another parent who's been through it does," Baumgartner said. "It's been almost six years ... and it's still hard. You never get over it."

To thank LOSS, the Baumgartner family hosts an annual fundraiser for LOSS in Megan's memory. This year's sixth annual "Remembering Megan 2013 Golf Outing" will be Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Maple Meadows Golf Club in Wood Dale.

Arlington Heights Police officers Rick Sjodin and Mike Cowsert, who work in the detective unit with Fran Baumgartner's husband, Alan, have helped the family organize the event each year. To date, they've raised more than $71,000 for LOSS.

The outing also serves as a tribute to Megan Baumgartner, a smiley, well-liked, 18-year-old Rolling Meadows High School senior and All-State golf team member who secretly battled depression.

Money raised in her memory helps support LOSS programs, including their unique Children and Youth program for ages 4 to 19.

The 3-year-old program, believed to be the only one of its kind in the area, provides free individual and group counseling specifically for children and teens who've lost a loved one to suicide.

Children benefit from separate counseling because they grieve differently than adults, LOSS social worker Cynthia Waderlow said.

"It's a process kids really do struggle with," said Waderlow, who counsels children in LOSS at the Des Plaines office as well as other parts of the Chicago area.

Waderlow said children sometimes don't want to ask questions, or show sadness, because they fear they'll burden their already-grieving adult family members. Sometimes they don't know how to process what they're feeling. Other times, there are pre-existing emotional issues involved, Waderlow said.

In LOSS's Children and Youth program, social workers and group facilitators can fine-tune discussions to different age ranges and situations. They use age-appropriate language for young children, such as "He had a sickness in his brain" or "He made his own body stop working," providing honest but not graphic answers as children get older. They also address the despair often felt by teens.

The program's goal is to create a safe environment where children and teens can talk about their feelings.

"It's a healthy process that sort of has to be embraced and lived through," Waderlow said. "They sometimes find a place in counseling where they are able to say things out loud and process things they're not able to do at home."

To reserve a spot or contribute to the Remembering Megan Golf Outing, call Arlington Heights Police Officer Rick Sjodin at (847) 718-7783.

A separate fundraiser for suicide prevention and understanding, the Chicagoland Out of the Darkness Walk, is set for Oct. 26 along the museum campus in downtown Chicago. Proceeds go toward research and education programs at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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