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Teen Suicide Victim’s Unintended Legacy Lives on ‘With Hope’

Teen Suicide Victim’s Unintended Legacy Lives on ‘With Hope’

A soccer ball on a field. (AnnRos/Pixabay)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

7/12/2023

Updated: 7/12/2023

In the early stages of navigating the unimaginable pain and grief that followed the 2005 suicide of her 14-year-old daughter, Amber, Annette Craig was not looking to create a legacy. She just knew she had to do something to help other people avoid the same misery.
More than 18 years later, “With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation” has exceeded everyone’s expectations and continues to grow in its mission to advance mental health awareness and prevent teen suicide.
Set to begin its 19th year of bringing presentations to middle school- and high school-age students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members, the foundation estimates it has reached more than 318,000 people during upwards of 1,850 presentations.
After talking to some 8,250 students in 2020–21, the first year following the onset of the COVID pandemic—when many schools were not fully open—With Hope’s trained speakers presented in front of more than 20,350 individuals last school year.
That represents an astonishing growth rate of nearly 250 percent.
An undated portrait of Amber Craig, who committed suicide at the age of 14 in 2005 in Placentia, Calif. After her death, her mother Annette Craig founded the suicide prevention nonprofit “With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation.” (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

An undated portrait of Amber Craig, who committed suicide at the age of 14 in 2005 in Placentia, Calif. After her death, her mother Annette Craig founded the suicide prevention nonprofit “With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation.” (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

“I didn’t do this to honor her memory,” said Mrs. Craig, the founder and president of With Hope. “I did it to help people like Amber who were struggling, to help families like mine who were struggling, but I learned that it was the best way to honor her memory.”
An outstanding student as a freshman at El Dorado High School in Placentia, California, Amber was also a successful soccer player and had earned a spot as a varsity goalkeeper before she took her life on May 25, 2005.
“Amber was a pretty private person, hence why we didn’t really know what was happening,” Mrs. Craig said. “I think, on the one hand, she’d be mortified that we were out there sharing all these things, and then I think on the other hand she would be really glad to know because after we lost her, I found out that she had helped quite a few people who struggled with the same struggles that she had.”
An undated photo of Amber Craig as a soccer goalkeeper. (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

An undated photo of Amber Craig as a soccer goalkeeper. (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

Unfortunately, with the possible exception of a select few who did not share the information, Amber did not confide in anyone the pain that she was enduring.
“Amber had friends who kept the secret. They knew she was talking about suicide, and they didn’t tell anybody because she had told them not to,” said Patti Ferraro, a longtime friend of the Craig family and a member of With Hope’s five-person Board of Directors since its founding.
The foundation’s director of speaking, Ms. Ferraro has been one of its chief messengers for the past eight years, since retiring from a 33-year career teaching in elementary, middle, and high schools.
“We tell kids ‘Don’t promise to keep that secret,’” Ms. Ferraro said. “Our buzzwords in our presentation are that we educate, equip, and empower. We’re there to talk to kids about awareness of depression and suicide prevention. We tell them what to look for, basically. We let them know that there are lots of people suffering from the same thing, and that it’s okay to come forward and talk about it, that there is hope, there is treatment, and we can help them.”
With Hope’s target audience is not limited to students. The organization’s staff of two full-time employees, three part-timers, and an army of volunteers is also dedicated to educating parents, teachers, coaches, and others, so they can recognize danger signs.
Ironically, one good thing that came out of the pandemic shutdown was the increased use and acceptance of online meetings.
“The world is so much smaller now,” Mrs. Craig said. “We found that we have a greater outreach to parents. It’s really difficult for them, at times, to get away to a presentation when we’re holding it at a school. When we do a presentation [online], they can be at their kids’ soccer field, the baseball field, wherever they are, and they’re able to get our presentation.”
Another byproduct of the pandemic has been an increased need for bereavement support, which has become roughly half of With Hope’s mission. Such a support group meets twice a month in person and twice a month online, making it accessible to people no matter their physical location.
“Coming out of COVID, we found that we had a lot of new people coming into the bereavement group, having lost a loved one to suicide,” Mrs. Craig said. “We do know that families who have lost a loved one to suicide are at greater risk for suicide themselves.”
From modest beginnings, initially limited to operating within the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, With Hope has expanded throughout Southern California and also touched Northern California schools via virtual presentations.
With both Mrs. Craig and Ms. Ferraro having relocated to North Carolina, bringing presentations there is a next step.
“We will go wherever we are invited, provided that we can meet the needs,” Mrs. Craig said. “As with most nonprofits, our requests for service always exceed our budget. I would say the only thing we’re limited by, honestly, is funds.”
The organization’s two large annual fundraising events are a golf tournament, scheduled this year for Oct. 19 at Black Gold Golf Club in Yorba Linda, and the Walk/Run With Hope, set for March 2, 2024, at Friends Church also in Yorba Linda.
More information is available on With Hope’s website.
Annette Craig, the founder and president of suicide prevention nonprofit “With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation,” speaks to students during a presentation in an undated photo. (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

Annette Craig, the founder and president of suicide prevention nonprofit “With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation,” speaks to students during a presentation in an undated photo. (Courtesy of With Hope, The Amber Craig Memorial Foundation)

Along with her husband, Scott, Mrs. Craig now lives on a farm about 20 miles from Burlington, North Carolina. She and Ms. Ferraro, who lives about 20 minutes away, commute to California for presentations.
So where does With Hope go in the future, perhaps someday even without Mrs. Craig?
“That’s something the board has really looked at,” she said. “I’m not ready to retire by any stretch. There’s never going to be a time that I don’t want to share this information with someone before they lose a loved one. … I’m just kind of walking and trusting in God that He’s going to lead us where we’re supposed to go.”
If you are in crisis, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 988, or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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