Learning to talk about the ‘unspeakable’

Street Stories

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Two local tragedies prompted a pair of movements to join forces and create a bunch of warm, comforting gifts.

In a collision of compassion, the organizations worked together to make dozens of blankets for Hasbro Children’s Hospital patients who aren’t able to go home for the holidays.

Portsmouth High School freshman Morgan Levreault said she can’t imagine being stuck in a hospital – especially during the holiday season.

“If this one blanket makes a kid happier for one second,” Levreault said. “I’ll be happy.”

Levreault is part of an emerging group of Portsmouth teenagers — called “Be Great for Nate” — that lost classmate and friend Nick Bruno to suicide last year.

They gathered in the lower level of Saint Barnabas Church to cut and tie large swaths of material into Annie’s Kindness Blankets

The non-profit was formed by three daughters who lost their mother, Anne Marie Varney, to suicide in 2015.

Portsmouth High School junior Jenna Strout said both “Be Great for Nate” and “Every Student Initiative” have students discussing suicide – so they can recognize the signs when someone might need help.

“It’s really hard to talk about, but you have to,” Strout said.

The goal is to inspire discussion and awareness long before someone considers taking it one step too far.

“People have such a good way of hiding their feelings, you sometimes have no clue what’s going on,” Strout said. “And there’s a lot going on.”

Nate’s father, Rick Bruno, was one of the adults in the room helping to create the blankets.

“People ask how I’ve done it,” Bruno said. “It’s the love and support of the community.”

Bruno said it’s inspiring to see his son’s friends, acquaintances — and even others who’ve never met him — come together to help others and also promote suicide prevention awareness.

“I’ve never thought about how such a young man can make such a profound effect on his friends and the people he knew for such a short time,” Bruno said. “It’s overwhelming sometimes.”

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with your story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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