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Businessman gives back, with golf tournament

Family loses loved one to suicide; finds help healing with Friends for Survival
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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A local businessman has organized a golf tournament to benefit a suicide support group, and has a good reason for doing so.

Josh Pietak, founder and president of Rocklin-based ECO Inc., launched the fundraiser to give back to Friends for Survival, a nonprofit organization that is helping his own family heal following the death of a loved one.

“It just seemed like a good, worthy cause that was close to home and they needed it,” Pietak said. “It wasn’t really a hard decision.”

ECO Inc. will host the golf tournament Saturday, May 7, at The Ridge Golf Course in Auburn.

Last year, Friends for Survival had a budget of about $70,000, half of which came from individual donations — the group doesn’t charge for services. Other funding comes from the Sacramento County Mental Health Services Act and small grants.

“A fundraiser like the golf tournament is huge not only for the funds it will raise but it brings awareness to the community that FFS is there to help people who may have suffered with their grief and had nowhere to turn,” said Friends for Survival volunteer Gail Beeman.

Six years ago, Pietak’s wife lost her brother to suicide. The man had two children and a wife.

“It had a devastating affect on his family,” Pietak said. “Hundreds of people are impacted by one suicide. (Suicides) are hard to deal with. There’s all this guilt.”

His wife recently discovered Friends for Survival, and has attended a few of the monthly support meetings in Roseville.

“It helped my wife a lot,” Pietak said.

Marilyn Koenig started Friends for Survival nearly 30 years ago after losing her son to suicide and realizing no support system existed.

She formed the group to promote healthy grief and teach constructive coping skills. Today, the organization employs three part-time staff members and needs more volunteers.

“We’re overwhelmed by the number of people calling us for services,” Koenig said. “We have just about one new family calling us every day. We average 300 families every year asking for services.”

Families who experience a suicide have an increased risk of more suicides, she said, which is why support services are critical.

“So many people have lost loved ones to suicide and keep it locked up as a secret (and are) afraid to share their sadness, grief and guilt,” Beeman said. “After going to our support groups they get some questions answered and leave with a lighter heart. I also see so many people, as they begin to heal, reach out to help others, like Josh is doing.”

In October, Pietak and his wife participated in a walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. People brought shoes to represent loves ones who had died by suicide. There were lots of them, in all different sizes.

In February, Pietak and ECO’s attorney Michael Kerr, an avid golfer, decided to host the golf tournament.

“The bottom line is with the position we are in, we wanted to give back to the community,” said Kerr, who lost a friend to suicide in 2010. “We wanted to pick a cause that needed our help, that doesn’t always get the major fundraising efforts.”

Beeman thinks the most important aspect of the golf tournament is the awareness it will bring.

“We are getting the fact out in the public that depression is real and so many people deal with it,” Beeman said. “It’s important for people to know the signs of depression so that we can be proactive and prevent suicides.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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ECO Invitational Golf Tournament for Friends for Survival

When: Check-in at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 7

Where: The Ridge Golf Course, 2020 Golf Course Road in Auburn

Cost: Single-player entry is $110. Foursome entry is $400. Sponsorships start at $200.

Info: For more information about Friends for Survival, visit www.friendsforsurvival.org or call (916) 392-0664. For more information about ECO Inc., visit www.enginecert.com.

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Suicide hotlines
1-800-273-TALK (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
1-800-646-7322 (Friends for Survival)