DOWNEY - As a former police officer, Bob Feliciano has endured hostile shootouts, car chases, riots and standoffs, but nothing he experienced could ever compare to the moment he discovered that his son was gone."When people ask me how I'm doing, I tell them I'm 75 percent of a person," said Feliciano somberly. "The other 25 percent of me is gone - that's my son." Seven months ago, 20-year-old Sean Feliciano, a graduate of Downey High School, took his own life, leaving his family with many more questions than answers. "Every parent who's lost a child knows what I'm going through," said Feliciano, 69. "I can eat a full meal and afterwards feel like my stomach is empty - I never thought this would happen to me." However, the Feliciano family is turning their tragedy into an opportunity to raise awareness for suicide prevention by sponsoring a 5K run next year, if the city of Downey approves their proposal. "This is a monumental undertaking," said Feliciano. "But with the help of the community we can prevent this from happening to another family." In memory of his son, Feliciano started the Sean Vernon Feliciano Amazing Day Foundation, which raises money and awareness for suicide prevention. "On his voicemail, he would always end his message by saying, "Have an amazing day," Feliciano said. Feliciano believes an annual 5K run in Downey could bolster the foundation and help thousands of young people battling depression and hopelessness. "Sean was a competitor. He was a runner. We want to continue that tradition," Feliciano said. "Every 16 minutes someone takes their life. If we can save just one life, we've done something." To coincide with National Suicide Prevention Week, the foundation has requested Saturday, Sept. 11 for the run, which would begin at the Lakewood entrance of Stonewood Center, move up towards Woodruff, down to East Middle School and back. Feliciano, who now teaches criminal law at Rio Hondo Community College, said the run would call for a closure of Woodruff from 8 to 9 a.m., and affirms that the closure is for a worthwhile cause. "Sean was not just my son, he was an active member of this community - this was his home," said Feliciano. "I intend to have this run and it's my goal and objective to get the city on board." Sheriff Lee Baca has agreed to be the run's grand marshal in addition to serving on the foundation's board, Feliciano said The Sean Vernon Feliciano Amazing Day Foundation hopes to partner with UC Santa Barbara, where Sean attended, and Rio Hondo Community College. Collected funds will go towards educational materials and prevention research. "Sean was a good student. He was in the top five percent of his graduating class - nationally. We're losing our top kids," Feliciano said. "I know times are rough, but if the community supports this - we can make a difference. We can prevent the needless loss of life."
********** Published: October 30, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 28