Missoula teens organize rugby tournament for suicide prevention
MISSOULA, Mont. - Rugby players from across the state of Montana are getting ready to face off in the fourth annual Reikena Memorial Rugby 7's Tournament, an event that honors Jack Reikena, a Big Sky High School sophomore who committed suicide December 2012.
This year, 16 teams will play in the tournament at the Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Jack's brother, Jake Reikena, is using the tournament as his Big Sky High School senior project. Jake says rugby is a way to remember his brother.
"We just grew in love with the sport super fast," Jake said. "With the 7's rugby tournament, it's a way to memorialize him and to remember the sport that he got us all into and how much fun it is."
Big Sky senior Brady Clawson is Jake's partner in the project. Brady says he's glad to help out.
"It feels really good because I know it's a big problem around Missoula and Montana," Brady said.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.
Jake says he wants to help change that statistic.
"We're just trying to make the best of a tragedy and help get the word out so people don't have to deal with suicides in the family and help lower the rate of suicide in Montana," Jake said.
Students aren't the only ones taking action. Lawmakers in Helena are also working out a solution to the suicide problem.
House Bill 381 would require teachers and school staff to address suicide prevention and response. Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Dan Salomon supports the bill, and says it could save a child's life.
"To be able to get training for teachers to recognize something like this would help," Salomon said. "Tendencies of students change, attitudes change and behaviors change."
Jake says the tournament has been used as a senior project by friends and family, and in 2018 his younger sister will take on the challenge.
The event will be held on March 25 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Games will being playing around 8:00 a.m.