With a goal of creating a positive influence on the region's teens, the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation has received certification as a non-profit corporation from the Pa. Department of State, Bureau of Corporations.

Announcement of the corporation's formation, with sanctioning from the Internal Revenue Service and the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, was made recently.

Previous to gaining its own identity, the foundation – formed to create awareness of mental health disorders and to provide essential funding for youths programs, scholarships and otherwise inaccessible individual mental health screening and treatment – was launched with the assistance of the Men of Marian, the booster organization that supports Marian High School, Hometown.

Jim Tkach, retired educator and head football coach at Northern Lehigh High School and a Lehighton native, is the president and CEO of the corporation. Other officers are: Jamie Drake, vice president; William O'Gurek, treasurer; Jaime Mendez, secretary; and Sandra Tkach, assistant treasurer.

Board members include Ron Kuntz, Slatington; Theresa Christman, Palmerton; Jim Snell, Coopersburg; Mike Follweiler, New Ringgold; Fred Lesher, Palmerton; Tristin Brannan, Milford, Del.; Tyler Tkach, Pittsburgh; Manny Guedes, Palmerton; and Rob Mikulski, Lehighton.

Jim and Sandy Tkach are the parents of the late Travis Bo Tkach, a 2001 graduate of Northern Lehigh, All State high school football player, All American collegiate gridiron star, state champion track performer and a magna cum laude graduate. Bo suffered from depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) before he tragically ended his own life in 2007.

OCD is a psychiatric anxiety disorder most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or "rituals") which attempt to neutralize the obsessions.

Jim Tkach, who has offered numerous motivational speeches and talks at area schools aimed at helping students to recognize emotional disorders and the potential dangers of living in a stress-filled environment, said the corporation's No. 1 objective is to "make children happier and healthier, especially emotionally."

"Clark Flatt of the Jason Foundation said it best at our 2011 golf tournament," Tkach said. 'You don't think that the great athlete, the outstanding student has these problems.

"They think they're safe with those credentials, but I just described the number one type of person we're losing to youth suicide across the nation. Bo Tkach is a perfect example of that. So the person who doesn't realize their son or daughter can be affected is one of the biggest dangers out there.'"

Tkach said when he and others began attempts to launch the foundation, he solicited the assistance of his longtime friend, Marian High football coach Stan Dakosty.

"If it wasn't for Coach Dakosty and Marian, I just don't know if we would have gotten off the ground," Tkach said. "When we started the whole idea of the foundation, we needed someone to help us work through the financial and legal work. Marian volunteered immediately to work with us. Bill O'Gurek has worked tirelessly to cross all the Ts and dot the Is. Without his expertise, we would probably working off of a yellow tablet. "

Since its inception, the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation has provided thousands of dollars in funding for services to youths who require psychological assistance and/or counseling.

"We are pleased to be able to provide financial assistance to individuals who meet eligibility criteria to receive Outpatient Mental Health Counseling at no cost to them," said Drake, who works closely with providers. "The individual or family member calls our contracted providers directly to engage in services.

"The provider determines eligibility and begins services, billing the foundation on a monthly basis for those services rendered. The goal is to provide services in a timely manner to individuals who otherwise would not seek those services due to inability to pay."

In addition to providing the financial support that families would not otherwise have access to in order to help their children through difficult behavioral issues, the foundation's mission is to help strengthen the foundation of healthier lives through athletic support.

"One of Bo's great loves was watching young people play youth football," Tkach noted. "After we researched things further, we found a study that clearly stated if a youth needed to confide in someone regarding stress or problems, that number one person would be a coach."

On an annual basis, the foundation will also continue to provide scholarship awards to deserving student athletes in Northeastern Pennsylvania; provide significant funding for many youth athletic programs in the area; support mental health awareness; and educate parents to recognize the potential warning signs and symptoms.

"Through youth athletics, public awareness and financial assistance, we can promote positive mental health for students in our area, and annually benefit 1,000 or more students," Tkach said.

The corporation's major source of revenue has been an annual golf tournament which attracts hundreds of golfers. The Fifth Annual Bo Tkach Memorial Golf Tournament will be held this year on May 2 at the Blue Ridge Country Club, Palmerton.

Other funds are derived from donations through the foundation's website, www.botkach.com, which has been provided by PenTeleData, Palmerton.

"Pencor and PenTeleData have been tremendously helpful and generous to the foundation," Tkach said. "The Reinhard Family has been absolutely wonderful in giving of their resources – time, talent and treasury – which has been one of the primary reasons why the foundation is able to attain the success that it has."

Tkach also credits Mendez, PenTeleData chief administrative officer, as being a key member of the Bo Tkach Foundation board who has been instrumental in the success of the tournament.

Organizations, including local youth athletic programs have raised funds for the cause. Schools have also come to the aid of the foundation. Panther Valley, Lehighton, Northern Lehigh and Northwestern Lehigh high schools have dedicated their annual rivalry games in Bo's memory.

"The people in these organizations have been great," Tkach said. "Through their support and generosity, we are able to continue working toward our goal of helping troubled individuals. Suicide is a word no one wants to even say. Worse, the results of it painfully wreck and shatter lives of family members. We want to do our best to have a good, solid impact on young people who are confronted by stress in their lives, so that similar tragedies don't happen."

The Tkachs are also available to provide free of charge speaking engagements to schools, churches, athletic or civic organizations.

For those services and other information about the Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Foundation, visit its website (listed above) or call Jim at 1-484-225-2706.