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Buying a $75 Holiday Affair ticket can save a teen’s life

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POSTED November 19, 2013 1:45 a.m.

Joann Jamerson asked a simple question: Why do I buy a $75 ticket each year to the Manteca Soroptimists’ Holiday Affair if I rarely go?

The answer is simple. It’s because of Brian.

I met Brian when he was 16 years of age. The athletic trainer at Lincoln High for whatever reason kept pestering me about asking Brian to go on long distance bicycle rides with me. He played football. He was a good student. And, as I found out, he had both a great mom and stepdad although for all practical purposes Jim was his dad.

It was back when I was obsessed with bicycling having gone at one point 324 consecutive days without missing a ride. Rain, fog, freezing temperatures, nor did 100 plus degree days stop me. Brian was also infatuated with bicycling.

We hit the flatlands and hills around Lincoln two to three times a week when it wasn’t football season. About once a month we’d head up to the Sierra and into Nevada to cycle mountain passes. Brian and several others also joined me a couple of times on my annual trips to Death Valley where we’d spend six days doing nothing but bicycling.

Brian was happy go lucky. Brian was smart. And Brian knew how to apply himself. That’s not to say he wouldn’t do impulsive things that teen boys do. It’s just that he had it altogether.

Imagine by my surprise on one early evening ride in the summer a week before football pratice started.

We were riding when Brian suddenly stopped, got off his bike and plopped himself down on the edge of a rice field drainage ditch.

He was angry. I asked why. Then he started crying.

He had just found out that he was named alternate to the Air Force Academy having missed out on the actual appointment. He had to study harder than his friends to get good grades. His girlfriend had just dumped him. And Brian had come to the realization that at 6-foot-4 and 150 pounds he probably wouldn’t be starting his senior year as wide receiver

I tried repeatedly to get him back on his bike as it was starting to get dark plus I had to get back to work. He said he wasn’t budging and told me just to leave him there

I wasn’t about to do that 10 miles in the middle of nowhere. So I talked with him. At one point I shared some  rather personal information about issues I had growing up and assured him that no one has a perfect life and that it does get better and that I was proof of that.

He shared doubts and fears he had. I listened and — when appropriate — told him from my heart that I wish I had been as accepting and trusting of people and as outgoing and applied myself to studies like he did when I was in high school. He finally got back on the bike and we chatted about nonsensical stuff until we got back to Lincoln.

The next day his mom called me at work. She thanked me for talking with Brian. I couldn’t understand what the big deal was and told her so. She said they were worried that Brian might be pondering doing something stupid like suicide. I thought she was overreacting. I told her that I probably didn’t tell Brian anything that she and Jim hadn’t already told him.

I’ll never forget her response; “You probably did but sometimes kids need to hear it from someone they respect other than their parents or family.”

I was stunned.

I sat there for a couple of minutes after the call ended.  I was angry at Brian when he didn’t act like an adult and threw what I thought was an uncalled for equivalent of a hissy fit. My interest was getting him back home so I could get to work since he was my responsibility at the time. While I didn’t lie to him my intent wasn’t based on a fear that he would do something stupid but because I wanted to get back before dark.

Brian was fine after that although over the next few years there were more than a few times when he acted irrational or I thought he worried too much about life or what others thought of him.

Brian is doing just fine today. He’s a professor teaching in Idaho.

I honestly don’t think Brian would have done anything stupid. But as I’ve been reminded since you never know. Too many teens from those who seem to have everything going for them to those who obviously were skating on the edge throw their lives away.

What does this have to do with the Manteca Soroptimists’ 34th annual Holiday Affair taking place on Wednesday, Dec. 11, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Bank of Stockton on North Main Street?

The service club’s signature project is an endeavor you don’t hear too much about — Manteca’s teen crisis counseling service.

The Soroptimists have donated over $302,500 in the past 25 years to help the Manteca Unified School District provide counseling services for teens at all schools in the district. School officials have credited the teen crisis counselors with substantially reducing the potential for young people to make decisions that could result in negative consequences to their academic performance, future career paths or even their health.

Paying $75 for a no show ticket is a pittance in terms of the dividends it can pay.

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