It was a humbling site Thursday afternoon at Kelly's Pub in Lansford, as coaches, administrators, and Bo Tkach Foundation members gathered to talk about this year's inaugural Bo Tkach Under the Helmet and Hat Classic that will be played between Panther Valley and Lehighton. The annual event will be held on the usual Thursday night meeting date between PV and Lehighton on September 15th at 7 p.m. The winner of the game will receive a trophy and a M.V.P. from each squad will also be recognized.
The idea was formed for involving the Bo Tkach Foundation when Panther Valley High School recently lost a well-known student to a behavioral health related death. Panther Valley Principal Joe Gunnels got the idea to contact Jim Tkach to come in and talk to his student body and teachers that he knew were hurting from the school's loss. Jim Tkach is Bo's father and also the spokesman for the Bo Tkach Foundation.
"I don't think Coach Tkach knows how much of an affect he had on our kids", said PV Principal Joe Gunnels. "After he was done talking to the students and teachers people were coming up to him and expressing different experiences they've had related to behavioral health, and he listened to every one of them."
During the early Summer months, Panther Valley and Lehighton officials got together and decided that working with the Bo Tkach Foundation was a great thing they could do for the local communities.
"Depression is an ugly disease and with the power of these two towns we can really get the awareness out there", said Jim Tkach. "80% of suicides are due to depression and we are losing 100 kids a week to this disease. These two communities coming together to play this football game are going to do a lot for our cause."
Lehighton also had some behavioral health issues of their own that made the decision to work with the Bo Tkach Foundation even easier.
"We also lost kids to some behavioral health problems recently," added Lehighton High School Principal Tim Tkach. "We preach family at Lehighton and these kids don't understand the impact the game of football will have on their life. The bonds they will create will last forever and with this game we are trying to make people aware of how serious this disease really is."
Panther Valley Head Coach Lon Hazlet and Lehighton Head Coach George Ebbert also expressed their excitement for the upcoming game.
"This is just a great cause", said Hazlet. "Young people are what coaching is all about. A long time ago somebody told me to get into the "kids business" because they can really surprise you on how great they can be. Anything I can do to help with this cause, I'm there."
"It's going to be a special event", added Ebbert. "Whenever Panther Valley and Lehighton get together it's always a special atmosphere and with the cause we're representing it becomes even better."
Travis Bo Tkach was a 2001 Northern Lehigh High School Graduate, who excelled as both a student and an athlete. He was a two-time first team All State football player, a two-time District 11 javelin champion.
Upon graduation, Bo accepted a football scholarship to the University of Delaware. He transferred to Lehigh University and later to Wilkes University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2007, as a member of Delta Mu Delta, with a degree in business and marketing.
In his short life, Bo had more accomplishments than some of us will have in a lifetime. Unfortunately, he also struggled with Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Like many mental illnesses, they disrupted his life in ways that others did not see. Despite the never-ending hope and love from his family, and extensive medical treatment, Bo ended his own life.
To gain more information on the Bo Tkach foundation, go to www.botkach.com