‘I Hope He's Proud': Virginia Mom Who Lost Son to Suicide Builds ‘FORT' for Kids

Suzie Bartel is turning her pain into purpose.

A few years after losing her son Ryan to suicide, the Loudoun County, Virginia, mother is trying to prevent other families from having to go through the same agony.

"You don't get over this. This is something that you just have to get through each day by day," Bartel said.

She said Ryan had anxiety and felt an overwhelming pressure to fit in.

Bartel created a monthly program called The FORT that gives teens a place where they can be themselves.

On Saturday, dozens of young people gathered at Fusion Academy in Leesburg for workshops on therapy dogs, yoga, meditation, art and cooking. The workshops are meant to give them the chance to de-stress, connect with other young people and learn new skills.

"I'll come here to unwind and calm down, and just think about.... just being happy and positive," FORT student Alex Hottinger said.

The workshops are free. Bartel said she asks that the teens pay it forward in how they treat others.

"Even though somebody might be different from what you’re used to, you can accept them and maybe become their friend," said FORT student Madeline Dean.

"Generosity and giving back is a form of therapy for me. So, it helps me, when I can make these kids happy, it helps me," Bartel said.

And the FORT keeps her son's memory alive.

"I hope he's proud of me," she said.

Find more information on The FORT online here.

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