WOODVILLE, Ohio — Jake Lewandowski was only 26-years-old when he died a year ago. Now, his family is on a mission to keep his legacy alive.
"He was awesome. He was well loved," his mom, Angie Lewandowski said.
Jake's grandma, Theresa Wright, referred to her first grandson as everything. His sister, Jenna, said he had the biggest smile. Angie said on the outside, Jake was always smiling and dancing. He was even top of his class at The Ohio State University.
"You know, he went off to college, his grades were good," she said.
But on the inside, Jake was fighting something deeper. Something his family said didn't show any signs.
He recognized he needed help in college, but was repeatedly told by doctors they didn't have time to see him. That's when he tried to get his anxiety under control himself.
"He self-medicated to try to feel better. So, that's another of layer of we're dealing with someone who's now addicted to drugs," Angie explained. "They were legal drugs, but they weren't prescribed to him."
It created a vicious cycle. One that ultimately took Jake's life in September of 2021. His family has spent every day since, sharing their journey with others in hopes of helping even one person.
"I don't know if I can give words to someone who's going through this. Everyone's journey I think is different. What they're going through, no right or wrong way to grieve. This is just what's working for us," Angie said. "We need to talk about it, I need to keep moving and how can I help? What can I do to try to help?"
One of the biggest lessons the Lewandowski's said they've learned is everyone is going through something.
"The amount of people that have reached out to us, talking about their own family things that they have going on. That you would have never known about. You never really know. I know people say it all the time, but you really never know," Jenna said.
That being kind to others can do more than you might realize.
"If you just have a little more compassion and patience and kindness," Jake's father, Doug, said.
On Saturday, the Lewandowski's are holding a memorial golf tournament in honor of Jake. The money raised will go to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, which hosts the Out of the Darkness walk.
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His family also wants to start a memorial scholarship fund at his high school, Woodmore, to help students going into the mental health field.
The tournament starts at 2 p.m. at Hidden Hills golf club. Anyone is welcome.
The national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7. The number is 988.
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