Foundation to honor Howland man, fund resources

WARREN — Friends of a Valley family impacted by suicide are joining together to make sure others, especially young people, know where to turn if they are suicidal or experiencing another mental health emergency.

The Ross Griffin Memorial Foundation is named for the Howland High School alumnus who died by suicide in February at the age of 22. A former homecoming king and Howland quarterback, Griffin was one semester away from graduating from Ohio University.

The foundation will honor Griffin’s legacy by raising money to help fund emergency service resources such as 2-1-1 centers and by awarding scholarships to Ohio students.

The 2-1-1 centers provide callers with access to, among other things, physical and mental health resources. Locally, United Way of Trumbull County and the Trumbull County Mental Health & Recovery Board help fund Help Network of Northeast Ohio to operate the 2-1-1 program here, giving Trumbull County residents around-the-clock access.

While many details about the foundation remain to be decided, Doug Datish, owner of Alpine Springs Rehabilitation and Recovery in Linesville, Pa., and an organizer of the foundation, said it is important people understand they are not alone.

“Sometimes people don’t know where to turn or where to go,” said Datish. “But there are people you can call. You’re not alone. You can find help.”

To provide seed money for the foundation, the Ross Griffin Memorial Bash will be noon Sept. 8 at SLOAS Air Field, 4059 N. River Road, Warren. The event will feature drawings every five minutes from 2 to 5 p.m. Prizes include cash, gift cards, a jet ski and a 2018 Toyota Camry XSE. Tickets are $100.

Jim Whetstone, owner of Toyota Volvo of Warren and longtime friend of the Griffins, said the event is modeled after a volunteer fire department fundraiser he has attended for years in West Virginia. Proceeds from it often exceed $1 million, he said.

Whetstone said raising awareness is a key function of the event and the foundation.

“(Suicide) can affect anyone,” said Whetstone. “It can affect any family or any group of people.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2016. More than half of those did not have a known mental health condition.

Datish said stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide often keeps people from getting the help they need. There are several ways to help, he said.

“If someone has a broken leg, people will say you need to go the doctor,” said Datish. “But if someone has a mental health issue, they may not talk about it the same way.”

ckromer@tribtoday.com

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