The Charles Lafitte Foundation (CLF) will host its 10th annual charity golf classic on June 25. All proceeds will benefit the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide (SPTS).
SPTS is a nonprofit organization based in Freehold that was founded in 2005 by New Jersey natives and golf buddies Scott Fritz and Don Quigley, who both lost a teenage child to suicide.
Stephanie Fritz attended Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and Sean Quigley was a student at the Manalapan Englishtown Middle School, Manalapan. The two teenagers took their own lives two months apart in 2003.
“[Suicide] can happen, and there are ways to educate and protect your kids,” said Fritz, the founder and president of SPTS. “Our goal is to get information out to schools, to the county and to parents in the community. We want to help parents and provide the needed resources.”
The SPTS and the CLF began their collaboration in 2010.
“While CLF has provided a number of grants to SPTS in the past, this year’s fundraiser is the first to benefit SPTS,” said Jennifer Vertetis, executive director of the foundation. Quigley and Fritz used their own experiences and funded the group’s start-up with the proceeds from a fundraising golf tournament.
“The reach has gone much farther than we ever thought it would,” Quigley said.
The organization has reached more than 40,000 educators in 50 states.
With assistance from Robert Morgan, who served in the state Assembly in 2004- 06 and represented the 12th District in Monmouth County, legislation was enacted that requires teachers to undergo suicide prevention training as a part of their professional development.
Several other states eventually followed suit. Between 2009 and 2011, there were 4,889 suicide attempts and 234 suicides in New Jersey. Around 162 of them were college age youths ages 19-24, accounting for 69 percent of the total number of suicides.
Monmouth and Bergen counties had the highest suicide rates in the state, according to Allison Blake, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, from the published report titled “A Data Overview and Prevention Activities Report on Youth Suicide in New Jersey.”
In Monmouth County, there were 23 suicides between 2009 and 2011. There were 21 males and two females between the ages of 10 and 24. Nationally, New Jersey has had the lowest state-level adolescent suicide rate for more than a decade.
In 2012, Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that ensures the state has the sufficient resources that a vulnerable population needs.
With the signing of that law, the New Jersey Suicide Prevention Program received a Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Program grant from the Human Services’ Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.
The program will give priority attention to the counties with the highest rate in suicide from 2007 through 2009. Other programs will include expanding networks, training of peers, a Mobile Teen Screen Team and a social media campaign to deter teen suicide.
Since 2003, the CLF has raised more than $3.5 million, to which they have matched every donation dollar for dollar. Within the last four years, donations have ranged from $300,000 to $530,000, with all proceeds directly benefiting the chosen beneficiary.
According to Vertetis, CLF has a strong base of friends and sponsors who donate each year, which ensures a successful event. But the support and interest in the unique beneficiary chosen for that year’s event increases the success.
This being the first of several events lined up for SPTS, all eyes are on the future.
“This will bring us to a whole new level,” Fritz said. “It will allow the organization to grow. It is people like them [from Charles Lafitte Foundation] that make the community work.”
The June 25 golf outing will be held at Due Process Stable, Colts Neck. Donations of any amount are welcome and will be matched by CLF.
For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, ticket and donation information, visit www.charleslafitte.org/ events/register.