Softball game raises awareness, funds for suicide prevention

Published 1:31 pm Monday, October 23, 2023

By Jordan Brooks

The Middlesboro T-Ball & Tri State Baseball Field recently hosted a double-elimination co-ed softball tournament for Suicide Awareness and Prevention in remembrance of former softball league participant, Candace Lynn England, who committed suicide Sept. 12, 2021.

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“It should never be considered that drawing awareness to suicide will increase the number of attempts or deaths,” said Sonya England, Candace’s mother. “The numbers are already there with suicide being a leading cause of death in the United States of America among ages 10 to 65-plus years old. More than 49 thousand people are dying by suicide each year. While not all suicide attempts or deaths are preventable, many are. My daughter’s death was preventable and the aftermath of her suicide has had a devastating impact on our family. How could I, or anyone, not advocate for suicide awareness and prevention? America has a month, a week, and a day already designated for increasing suicide awareness and prevention. It’s time to do our part starting right here in Bell County.  If many people are willing to do just a little, a whole lot can be accomplished.”

All teams paid an entry fee to play, and this year’s proceeds will go to a suicide awareness and prevention organization yet to be chosen by England’s parents.

Three teams from Middlesboro participated: The Bomb Squad coached by Jennifer and Rodney Ferguson, Explosion coached by Angela Allen and TNT coached by Travis Heck. Case Closed coached by Jack Maggard from Harlan and Ronnie Graves Logging coached by Jerry Boling from Washburn, Tennessee. Ronnie Graves Logging was the 2023 tournament winner.

Event host Jennifer Ferguson has a master’s degree in forensic psychology, and will be completing her master’s in clinical mental health counseling in the coming year, and says she encounters those with suicidal thoughts and behaviors almost daily.

“It is an epidemic on the rise especially in our youth,” Ferguson said. “This softball tournament is a way to spread awareness and remember those close to us who have died by suicide. Their stories are not over. Candace’s story is not over. While it was with a heavy heart to put the tournament together, it was also my pleasure. I personally thank each and every one who joined in and contributed to such a worthy cause.”

Allen says she looks forward to the event coming back next year to raise awareness and carry on the tradition.

“It is an honor to play the game you love,” Allen said. “It is a greater honor to do it for a cause that affects us all in some way or the other. I didn’t know Candace personally but whenever we seen each other it was always on a softball field. It just seems fitting to have a softball tournament in honor of her and raise awareness of something that is not easily talked about.”

Allen plans to host next year’s tournament. She says the hope in doing this tournament annually is that it may encourage someone to be an advocate for someone they know that may be having thoughts of suicide, or even for themselves.

England’s family was present for the tournament.

“I didn’t realize how many families have been impacted by suicide here in Bell County until after my daughter’s death,” Sonya England said. I hope to find a resourceful and dedicated organization willing to bring Suicide Awareness and prevention training, classes, and seminars right here to us in Bell County. Hopefully into our middle schools and high schools too. There is so much growth needed and possible.”