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Family turns their pain into purpose to prevent tragedy from striking again

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Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 11, 2021

NORTH OLMSTED, Ohio — When hit with unimaginable pain the idea of pushing forward may seem impossible.

One family has turned its heartache into a helping hand to prevent a similar tragedy.

"That's what's helped us to get through these tough times," said Rick Haney.

Haney remembers his son's personality and passion for life.

"Just a happy go lucky guy. He was always the life of the party. Always had a smile on his face," said Haney.

Both so much larger than John Haney himself, and his dad will tell you he was a big guy.

"Weighed about 305 lbs. He could box squat 685 pounds, pure muscle," said Rick Haney.

That build made John Haney a force on the football field.

"It was always his dream to play college ball and he fulfilled that dream," said Rick Haney.

After graduating from Baldwin Wallace, John Haney moved to Columbus.

"Some things must have been changing that nobody even knew about," said Rick Haney.

John Haney was in a silent battle.

"If he had only reached out," said Rick Haney.

The unrelenting opponent was his brain.

"We even said John, we're here to help you whenever you need, and he always said I got this, I got this and he didn't have it," said Beth Haney.

November 12, 2017, his parents got the call.

"Son, what in the world were you thinking," said Haney.

The burden for John Haney became too much to bear.

"At his service, we had over 900 people come to our church," said Beth Haney.

Suicide was never something this mom and dad expected.

"He was my fishing buddy. We talked all the time. We were extremely close, and I had no idea," said Rick Haney.

From their pain - his parents found their purpose.

"We have to be able to take control of what happened and grab the good that we can out of it to help others," said Haney.

The foundation they started in honor of their son foot the bill for a new room for students at North Olmsted Middle School.

“They have nowhere to go. So, that’s how John’s Safe Place came about," said Beth Haney.

In it are different activities and calming features to help students cope with social and emotional issues.

“Every year it seems to be a bigger and bigger concern," said Chris Hoffa, guidance counselor.

Hoffa said they are seeing a lot more anxiety and depression, and this escape is already in high demand.

“Just give them that time to color or play with a Rubik's Cube or just sit and stare at the fish tank and you can see them start to calm down," said Hoffa.

In addition to this relaxing retreat, the John C. Haney Foundation is providing mental health first aid classes to help school staff recognize issues in their students and better equip them with how to respond.

“There’s no reason for anyone to struggle alone or silently. I know that the Lord has given us this mission to help these kids," said Beth Haney.

The counseling staff at North Olmsted Middle School said since opening, John’s Safe Place has facilitated more discussions about suicide, anxiety, and depression.

"It's ok not to be ok, it's ok. There's hope," said Haney.

Much needed hope that continues to emerge from heartache.

“John’s story isn’t over — because it’s not," said Haney.