The Will to Live Foundation: Fostering Hope and Acceptance


Jessica Wilder, Copy Editor

A sea of purple seemed to overwhelm the Gwinnett Braves stadium as people pour in to see the recognition that is about to take place. Members of a Junior League baseball team kindly pass out purple rubber wristbands that spell out “Love Ya Man” in bold white letters. They are about to head out onto the field and represent the Will To Live Foundation as an honorary sponsor for the game. John Trautwein and his wife Susie, the founders of the organization, watch as the boys file out and pose for a picture. Mr. Trautwein smiles and laughs as he talks with friends and family in the VIP box, posing for foundation pictures with the team and doing interviews. Looking at him in this way, a happy man with a wife and children, people would seem to be shocked if they knew of the tragedy that struck this family in October of 2010.

Will Trautwein, John and Susie’s eldest son, was a popular lacrosse player who aspired to be a musician when he grew up. He was loved and had a lot going for him later in life. So, when he took his own life at the age of fifteen, his family was left wondering what went wrong, why he would he do it and if there was something they missed.

“If suicide can happen in our home and to a young man like Will then, in theory, it can happen anywhere,” Mr. Trautwein states. The family began to think of ways to help tame their grief and help other families who have gone through the same situation; they decided that the best way to honor and remember Will would be to spread his message of love and compassion.

“You hear people say, ‘parents talk to kids, guidance counselors, teachers, and coaches talk to kids’. We want this organization to encourage kids talking to kids,” Mr. Trautwein said in his Will to Live blog.

The slogan for the foundation was formed by Will himself, something the Trautwein family found out after his death. Every day before school, he and his friends would stand in a circle, stick their hands in, and say “love ya, man” before heading off to class. Mr. Trautwein believes that the saying fits into the organization perfectly.

“The kids of the Will to Live Foundation prove to us every day that the greatest source of hope in our lives is through the love of a friend. So drop an ‘I love ya man’ on someone today, you’ll feel better!” Mr. Trautwein said. The foundation has spread, being recognized by other groups such as Connor’s Climb and Willstock and even getting the attention of CBS News, who did a special called “Will’s Story”. All of these organizations work together to raise awareness for teen suicide.

The organization has not only helped the kids, but the Trautwein family as well. “You think it’s never going to go away, but when I start talking about the foundation, when I start talking about what we are trying to do for the kids, with the kids, and through the kids, that pain starts to go away and that energy starts to turn positive.”

The Will to Live foundation has helped so many people in learning how to come together and support each other and that, to Mr. Trautwein, is how he feels Will. “Every time someone says, ‘love ya, man’, I know he is there.”

The organization has made a big impact on the community, bringing them closer together than they had ever been. Mr. Trautwein knows that is what Will would have wanted. Will to Live is changing the way we talk about teen suicide and helping families who have been affected or families who want to help and teach others to love one another; as Mr. Trautwein says, “by the kids, for the kids, through the kids”.