NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. -- A New Port Richey family is working to turn tragedy into change following the death of 16-year-old Ian Ezquerra and keep other families from sharing their pain.
The teenager took his own life in August 2019 in Palm Harbor.
"He was comical, funny, very smart and witty," said his mother, Jennifer Mitchell.
She said he was getting ready to start his junior year at East Lake High School, wanted to study psychology in college, swam for the school swim team, loved animals and excelled in his academics.
"He was my little angel," said Mitchell.
Following the life-changing call about her son, she said students told her how Ian helped save them in their time of need.
"As beautiful and as touching as it is, it was devastating at the same time to realize that nobody else was able to help my son," Mitchell said. "I realized the power of peers talking amongst each other."
That's when she and her mother, Karen Zients, decided to start Ian's Way. Right now, they're fundraising to get it off the ground.
"We want to set up the different groups so kids can talk to one another okay we found they won’t talk to an adult okay but they will talk to one another," Zients said.
They explained their vision is to create safe spaces for peers to talk to each other, supervised by a mental health professional, with a goal of teens getting support from one another and knowing when it's okay to speak out.
"If I could help one person or one family from experiencing what our family has gone through, then I feel I don’t know I feel better. I feel like I have done my job as a good citizen. As a good person. As someone who just has a good heart," said Mitchell.
The organization is hosting a fundraiser Thursday at Snappers Grill and Comedy Club in Palm Harbor 6-9 p.m.
Mitchell said the event and organization is all-inclusive and will accommodate to those with ASL needs as well.
If you or someone you know needs support or crisis services call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can learn more information here.