AVON, June 6 – Close to 150 former Avon High lacrosse players, family, friends and former teammates of the late Kurt Skelley gathered at Buckingham Field earlier this month to celebrate the life of their teammate.
Skelley, who graduated from Avon High in 2011, took his own life a little over a year ago in 2014 after struggling with a major depressive disorder.
Two of Skelley’s former teammates Will Paton and Ian Mack thought the annual Avon High alumni lacrosse game would be a perfect venue to raise funds for the Kurtis R. Skelley Memorial Fund, which raises awareness of depression.
The game was a big success. Nearly $2,000 was raised. The game provided the means of re-connecting, not just for the players but for everyone who attended. The energy level was high, yet there was a solemnness. After the game, Lisa Ludwig, Kurt’s mother, provided an emotional and poignant message.
“If you are here today, to me that means that you lost a friend,” Ludwig told the crowd. “To me it means that there is a hole in your heart and my hope is that today, you will hear my prayer. Since we all arrived here today, one more beautiful suffering young adult from the age of 18-25 has taken their own life. Every two hours and five minutes another suffering person believes that taking their own life is the answer.
“Together, we can change this devastating statistic,” she said. “If you are here, then you knew just how great Kurt really was and if you knew him, you are in disbelief that someone as talented and kind and strong and dedicated as Kurt could have made this decision. My hope is that you pay close attention to that fact and that you become a spokesperson for Kurt and this horrible disease.”
Each of the nearly 60 players donated to the fund and were given an orange pinney adorned with the number 10, Kurt’s lacrosse number when he played at Avon High. In contrast to the typical lacrosse jersey with an individual numbers for each player, every participant was in fact “playing for Kurt” on this sunny afternoon.
Skelley was an outstanding lacrosse player at Avon High and at Springfield College. He was a co-captain of the 2011 Falcons and earned All-NCCC and All-State honors in high school. As a senior, he scored 26 goals with six assists.
Players and spectators make donations to the fund while some donated money to pay for sandwiches and other refreshments. Proceeds from a raffle were also donated to the fund. Items from Lacrosse Unlimited, Ooh La La Boutique and decorative handbags and pillows made by Ludwig were raffle prizes. Sartorious Sports helped defray the cost of the game pinneys and Luna Pizza donated some food for the event.
There was a table along the sidelines with information on depression.
Ludwig urged everyone, “Take (information) for yourself, take it for a friend or family member. Take it to have for someday when you may need to share it with someone. Take it because you want to help. Take it with the thought of potentially saving someone’s life. Take it and talk.
“If it can happen to Kurt, then I am here to tell you that it can happen to anyone,” she said. “If you all keep Kurt in your hearts as you journey through your own lives, I believe that you may be able to help or even save someone’s life. All you need to do is be truthful and to talk.
“Talk about your feelings, talk about what you need, talk about how others are doing, talk about the pressures, talk about getting help, talk like you have never talked before,” Ludwig said. “You see, if you are talking, then others will start talking and in time, talking about depression and the truth without the stigma will become the norm.
Patton and Mack hope to make the game an annual tradition to keep Kurt’s spirit alive on the lacrosse field. Born in Hartford, Skelley lived in South Windsor and Avon. He had a passion for the outdoors and loved to ski, hike and play lacrosse.
Donations are still welcome. You may send them to the Kurtis R. Skelley Memorial Fund c/o Edward Jones, 9-1 Bank Street, Granby, CT 06035.