A noted public speaker will talk to students and community members in the Palmerton Area School District in the wake of a high school student's death last week.
Jim Tkach, of the Bo Tkach Memorial Foundation, will speak to the community about Nick Bickowski, 16, a sophomore at PAHS who was found dead in his home after he took his life on Jan. 22.
A funeral service for Bickowski was scheduled earlier today at Faith Alive United Methodist Church, Bowmanstown. After Bickowski's burial this afternoon at the Towamensing cemetery, high school students were expected to release 200 balloons in his memory.
Tkach will visit the high school auditorium tonight at 7 p.m. He will also talk with junior high students at 8:30 a.m. Friday, and senior high students at 10:15 a.m.
Superintendent Carol Boyce referred to Bickowski's death as a "community shattering experience", and urged those in the community who may be struggling with the tragic incident to attend.
"Any community member, parent, is welcome to attend," Boyce said. "He will be talking about the aftermath of all of this event and help people to talk about it and work their way through it."
Boyce said Tkach has agreed to speak with the community "all in our effort to work with the community to help everyone as we all go through this tragedy together."
"Jim is part of the extended community, and because of his personal experiences, he has made himself available to help others in these kinds of situations," she said. "We are very grateful for his support and his friendship."
The district has an Emergency Response Team made up of professionals trained to help with the needs of students, parents and school personnel. The high school also has counselors available for any student who may need or want help or any type of assistance.
In addition, the district has announced on its web site that a fund is being established for the Bickowski family. Any contributions should be sent to or dropped off at the First National Bank of Palmerton at Fourth and Lafayette, Palmerton. Donations should be made out to Benefit for Nick Bickowski.
The Bo Tkach Memorial Foundation was created by Jim and Sandi Tkach in honor of their son, Bo Tkach, who committed suicide at the age of 25 in 2007.
The mission of the Foundation is to create awareness for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other mental health issues while providing essential funding for youth athletic programs, scholarships and otherwise inaccessible individual mental health screening and treatment.
Through youth athletics, public awareness and financial assistance, the Foundation attempts to promote positive mental health for students in the area, and annually benefit 1,000 or more students.
The goal of the foundation on an annual basis is to: provide scholarship awards to deserving student athletes in Northeastern Pennsylvania; provide significant funding for many youth athletic programs in the area; provide financial assistance to students who would not otherwise have access to mental health screening and treatment; and support mental health awareness and educate parents to recognize the potential warning signs and symptoms.
Under the program, young adults who need mental health evaluations but are unable to get an appointment because of the lack of insurance can call the MHMR Intake Unit at (610) 377-0773 or Jamie Drake, treatment program manager at the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission at (610) 377-5177 ext. 105.