Jefferson Awards | Barbara Righter
This month’s Jefferson Award for Outstanding Community Service recipient is a true example of taking great heartache and turning it into a great service to help others.
Barbara Righter lost her son Donovan to teen suicide.
“It was Labor Day, September 7th 2015. Hardest day of our lives, when we came home to find Donovan had taken his life,” said Barbara.
In a heartbeat, her life had changed.
“Obvious shock, disbelief. wondering how someone who had such a bright future could have considered that as an option,” she says.
After months of agonizing and wondering, Donovan’s parents realized he was living in his own dark space.
On the outside Donovan was an involved, confident teenager: A National Honor Society member, football player, wrestler, and musician. So why did he take his own life?
“It made us realize that there are other things to look for and sometimes the highly functioning people who seem like they have it all together are people who are struggling internally,” says Barbara.
Donovan’s suicide made the Righters realize how little information is available about suicide prevention because of the stigma surrounding it.
So Barbara went to work – finding the American Federation of Suicide Prevention – and went on a personal mission to raise awareness.
On the anniversary of Donovan’s death, Barbara and about 140 friends and family held the first “Out of the Darkness Walk to Prevent Suicide.” That, along with many other fundraisers, has helped Barbara raise more than $83,000 with a $100,000 goal for “Team Donovan’s Huddle and Memorial Fund.”
And that’s outstanding community service.
"Barbara is the epitome of why we want to sponsor the Jefferson Awards,” says Jason Bugg, of Donegal Insurance Group. “She has turned a terrible tragedy into something that’s as good as it can be, raising all this money for awareness of teen suicide.”