Introduction to Bo Tkach Memorial.

Under Every Helmet and Hat is a Child Who Needs Us

Travis Bo Tkach was the pride of his community. A 2001 Northern Lehigh High School Graduate, he was a two-time first team All State football player, a two-time District 11 javelin champion, and a member of the 1998 Colonial League championship team. In 1999, he quarterbacked the first ever District 11 championship team at Northern Lehigh and played in the first Pennsylvania East-West All Star Game. Bo was named to ESPNs Academic High School Football All-American team in 2000-2001. In 2001, he was named Most Valuable Male Athlete of Northern Lehigh. He was also the schools representative of the Best of the Best.

Upon graduation, Bo accepted a football scholarship to the University of Delaware. He transferred to Lehigh University and later to Wilkes University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2007, as a member of Delta Mu Delta, with a degree in business and marketing.

For many years, Bo worked with youth throughout the Lehigh Valley, helping them develop speed and agility. He volunteered as a guest speaker at youth clinics and ran speed and explosion seminars for Southern Columbia, Marian Catholic, Northern Lehigh, Tamaqua, Palmerton and Lehighton High Schools.

In his short life, Bo had more accomplishments than some of us will have in a lifetime. Unfortunately, he also struggled with Depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Like many mental illnesses, they disrupted his life in ways that others did not see. Despite the never-ending hope and love from his family, and extensive medical treatment, Bo ended his own life.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a depressive disorder is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years.

Although most of us recognize Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as frequent hand washing, it is much more than that. Typically, a little anxiety is a good thing – it is the knowledge that keeps us from harm. For someone with OCD, the brain warns of danger, but very badly. Persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use of rituals (compulsions) control the anxiety these thoughts produce. In turn, the rituals usually end up controlling the obsessions. Perfoming the rituals is not pleasurable, and at best, they produce temporary relief from the anxiety created by the thoughts.

For example, if someone with OCD is concerned about intruders in their home, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. While the typical person might do the same, they would be able to go to bed, content that the door was locked. An OCD sufferer might have to check the door multiple times for the next few hours to convince themselves that it was really locked. Even though the person with OCD is aware that their thoughts are irrational, they are unable to control them.

Other common rituals include the need to repeatedly check or count things, often in a certain sequence. Common obsessions include frequent thoughts of violence or being preoccupied with order and symmetry.

To understand the seriousness of mental health issues, consider the following statistics. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide was the eleventh leading cause of death for all ages and in 2005, more than 32,000 suicides occurred in the United States. This is the equivalent of 89 suicides per day or 1 suicide every 16 minutes. It is estimated that there is one suicide completed for every 100-200 attempts. Clearly, this demonstrates a desperate need to educate the public and to research treatment and prevention options.

Bo’s father, Jim Tkach, is a well-known and respected leader in the community. In addition to Bo, he and his wife Sandi, who is a Registered Nurse at Lehigh Valley Hospital, have two other children, Tyler and Tristin. His dedication as a teacher, principal and football coach has made him a role model to many. As a former coach for the Palmerton and Northern Lehigh School Districts and Lehigh University, he coached both of his sons, and led the Bulldogs into their 2003 State Championship game. Today, he directs the Annual Nike Coach of the Year Clinic for the Eastern Pennsylvania region.

In appreciation of his dedication to the youth of the area, and in Bo’s honor, the Bo Tkach Memorial Fund has been created to raise awareness of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Mental Health issues and to fund various youth programs for the betterment of children in the community.