It started as a new challenge. Jack Riekena was the first in his family to dive headfirst into the sport of rugby, and he eventually shared his new passion with the rest of his siblings.
“Jack played, he got talked into it, played, and then I followed, and then my older brother followed. And then my sister followed, and then we are just all enjoying it.” says Jake Riekena, Jack’s younger brother.
“He had good offloads, so I was like I want to play like that. So I just kind of worked on it to hope that I could be able to do what he did.” says Jack’s little sister Julia Riekena.
Tragically, in 2012, Jack Riekena committed suicide. He was just 15 years old. The family, devastated. And they turned to the one thing that reminded them most of their brother. Rugby.
“It just brings us, I guess joy, with it, since he is gone. Just so we can remember him by something that he loved, and we love, and just continue to play.” says Julia.
Starting four years ago with the oldest brother Jason Riekena, the family created the Jack Riekena memorial rugby tournament. Pulling teams from around the Northwest, it has grown into one of the largest rugby tournaments in the region. This year, the planning and execution fell on Jake, and one of his best friends Brady Clawson.
“This tournament, I knew that Jake was, and his family have been doing it for his brother, and I didn’t really know Jack, but I still knew how much it meant to him, so I am honored to help out with this tournament.” Clawson says.
The tournament so far has raised over $8,000 dollars, with all of the money going towards the one thing that means the most to this Missoula family: suicide prevention.
“This tournament gets the word out to people, and more people talk about it. It just brings up the question for parents to ask their kid like are you ok? Do you need help? And giving them the resources if they do need help.” says Julia.
“People have been there before too, you are not alone. People have had these thoughts, and you just have to find a way to deal with it.” says Clawson.
And what would Jack think about this tournament and his family today?
“I think he would be very proud, mainly of our family, and how we have come together. And how we have gotten the community to come out and support, and to help spread the word. So I think he would be proud of all of us.” says Jake.
-Project Tomorrow Montana: http://projecttomorrowmt.org/
-Montana Health Department: http://dphhs.mt.gov/amdd/Suicide.aspx
-Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255