Clark Flatt, founder of The Jason Foundation, lost his youngest son, Jason, at the age of 16 to suicide.
“It’s easy to talk about Jason. I do that daily,” he told News 2.
Jason was a football player, with plenty of friends and above average grades, but he only lived to be a young teenager.
“That day – July 16, 1997 – took us completely off guard,” his father remembered.
Although it’s been more than two decades, or 7,581 days, according to Clark, the father remembers the day he lost his son as though it was yesterday.
“He had a summer job, but that was his day off and I had shot some basketball with him as I left that morning, then I left for work. Then I received out of the blue a phone call from a friend that asked if I’d heard from him,” he recalled.
After a few calls, and no word from Jason, he set out to look for him.
“So, I went to look for him. I went to a couple of places where I thought he might be hanging out with friends and stuff and he wasn’t there. The last place I went was home,” he said.
Home is where Clark found his teenage son.
“Regretfully, when I went into his room I found that he had taken his life. That was a tough day,” he said.
Jason had used his father’s gun.
“Until he was 14, I had locked it up and kept it away so it was secure. After he was 14, I don’t know why, but for some reason I stopped locking it up. Now looking back, I encourage parents to keep the firearm locked up no matter what the age of their children are just for safety reasons,” the father said.
Looking back, Clark also said Jason showed some signs, but as a parent he knew nothing about suicide. “No one had ever talked about suicide being a danger,” Clark told News 2.
That’s why the father took his family tragedy and started The Jason Foundation Inc. in hopes to help others.
“I started The Jason Foundation as my way of lashing back at this thing that took my sons life,” he explained.
The nonprofit is dedicated to the prevention of youth suicide through programs that equip young people, educators and parents with the tools and resources to identify and help at-risk youth.
“I just saw a big void and I thought part of the reason this happened was my ignorance of not knowing the danger of youth suicide,” Clark explained.
Since launching The Jason Foundation in the fall of 1997, they have expanded to have 114 offices across the country.
Clark said they have become the largest youth suicide prevention program in the nation.
While Clark will never hug his son again, he said he can and will work alongside others perhaps to save your friend, your neighbor’s child or even your own.
“Yes, we do miss him. Yes, it does hurt tremendously, but we’ve taken that tragedy, and in his name, gone out and touched a lot of young people, a lot of families and I think that brings a smile to him,” he said.