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“The pressure on teenagers and college students is intense."

Gage Crispe

On the surface, Gage Crispe appears to be a typical DU freshman. He graduated with honors from Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, Colo., and was captain of the football and lacrosse teams his senior year. He's pursuing a business degree and seems bound for success.

Look a little closer, though, and you will find a young man with a mission — one that came to him through almost unbearable tragedy.

"During my sophomore year in high school," Crispe explains, "one of my good friends committed suicide." Grief-stricken, he looked for an outlet for his pain and resolved that no other friends or family should have to endure the heartache of a suicide. He and another student came up with the idea for a suicide-prevention fundraiser and hosted an event at their deceased friend's favorite restaurant on her birthday. That night, they raised $1,700.

"We presented the money to Jeff Lamontagne, one of the founders of the Second Wind Fund, and he asked us to train to become teen ambassadors for the program," Crispe says. He completed the training and became an active supporter of the Second Wind Fund, a suicide prevention program aimed at youth ages 15–24.

Since finishing his training, Crispe has spent hundreds of hours supporting the Second Wind Fund, working on education and prevention efforts around youth suicide. He participates in live radio call-in shows and school assemblies, addresses the media and attends a variety of events, including breakfast meetings at the governor's mansion, where he helps to explain the Second Wind Fund and how it works.

It's easy to see why Crispe is a popular spokesperson for Second Wind Fund. He's compassionate, well-spoken and knowledgeable when talking about youth suicide.

"The pressure on teenagers and college students is intense," he says. "In college, not only do you need to do well in school, but you are now paying for the school and working toward getting a job. You need to be ready for it and try to still have a social life while you work on making the connections that will shape your future."

He relates the chilling statistics: One in four people between the ages of 15 and 24 have had thoughts of suicide. Around the country, a dozen people ages 15 to 24 die from suicide each day. "We want to make it an issue that people can talk about, to admit that they are experiencing depression," he says.

Crispe is struck by how many people respond to the topic when he's out in public. "It's amazing the response you get — it affects so many more people than you think. I never thought I could be touched by suicide at a young age, or at any time. When you make it an issue you can talk about, you begin to help."

Second Wind Fund special events coordinator Nicole Lovato has worked with Crispe, presenting suicide-education programs to area schools. "His purpose is to do whatever is needed to advance the organization and save more kids," she says. "I find that touching. He's not looking to fill in a space on his resume, but rather he wants this group to succeed. Gage is approachable, articulate, professional and mature for his age. He seems to be far beyond his years; an old-soul type thing. We are very lucky to have him."

Crispe also was instrumental in the BIONIC (Believe It Or Not I Care) team at Green Mountain High School. Created by a counselor after the school experienced four student suicides in one year, BIONIC is a grassroots student organization that reaches out to students and other schools. Participants deliver gifts to students in the hospital, offer homework help for those with an extended illness and welcome new students. A school tragedy team creates banners with encouraging words for other schools that experience loss. Since 2004, the BIONIC program has expanded to over 400 schools worldwide.

After graduating from high school, Crispe's role as a teen ambassador changed, but not his involvement. Crispe was able to bring the Second Wind Fund into his studies with the DU Pioneer Leadership Program. He's also hoping to bring the BIONIC program to DU and possibly create an inter-fraternal BIONIC team.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Crispe has received numerous accolades for his work, including a National Philanthropy Day Outstanding Youth award, a 9News Kid Who Cares Award, a President's Volunteer Service Award from President Obama, a Comcast Leaders and Achievers Award and the Metropolitan Mayors and Commissioners Youth Award, among others. With all that, it's clear that Crispe isn't doing this work for the awards or the recognition. For him, the motive is simple. "This is how I honor her loss."

For more information on youth suicide and the Second Wind Fund, visit www.thesecondwindfund.org or call 303-988-5870.

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