PERRY TOWNSHIP, Ohio-- The recent suicides of six current and former Perry High School students has motivated Bill Hanna to do whatever he can to prevent any more.
"I didn't go to Perry, but the last seven years, I drove a school bus for a company in Missouri and kids are my thing. They mean the world to me and when I saw this, it was like, 'We have got to do something for these kids,'" Hanna said.
In recent weeks, residents of the Stark County community have held rallies, vigils, and even taken doughnuts and encouraging messages to schools. It's all an effort to show students and school faculty that there are people who care about them.
But Hanna said he feels the need to do something more permanent. Hanna, along with Jayne Bruwier, of Massillon, created an organization named "Perry Strong."
"Not just when the smoke goes down, let it go. Iwant to keep it going because there are other younger kids coming into the districts and they need to know they need to go for help also," Hanna said.
For Bruwier, the motivation is personal.
"I have dealt with depression since I was 19 when my mom passed away. And I am a suicide survivor myself. And when I heard about all these kids committing suicide, this tugged at my heart really bad," Bruwier said.
The organizers hope to be able to have the resources to take kids on trips, like bowling or skating, and conduct meetings during which they can discuss their concerns. The group already has nearly 200 members on its Facebook page.
Hanna described a meeting scheduled for Friday evening at the New Life Tabernacle, on 12th Street Northwest in Massillon, as an organizational meeting to hear from others about what needs they can meet.
"We've got to do something and we have got to do something quick for them. These kids need a place to go they need somebody to talk to," Hanna said.
"I feel like the world is not so bad and there are people who do care," Bruwier said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of death or suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It provides free and confidential support for people in crisis. The Crisis Text Line is also available 24/7 by texting “HOME” to 741741. If there is immediate danger, call 911.