WARRENSBURG-A tree planting ceremony will be held May 19 in memory of Courtney Mae Swinton, an 18-year-old from the area who apparently took her life about a year ago.
Irv West, the organizer of the event, said he and others not only want to remember Swinton, but to convey to all young people that there are ways other than suicide to ease the pain that comes with life.
"Courtney was a very sensitive and caring soul and was always there for her friends when they were distraught," he said, noting that all in area communities are invited to attend the ceremony. "Sadly, the burdens of her life - and the pain - were too much for her to bear, and we lost her."
The tree, a Japanese Lilac, will be planted on the grounds of Warren County Cooperative Extension office off Schroon River Road in Warrensburg. The horticultural experts on staff will nurture the tree over time, much as the organizers hope the ceremony will nurture our area communities' youth who are facing challenges, West said.
Every year when the memorial tree blooms, a ceremony will be held, West said. "It's symbolic of life's renewal, and how Courtney continues to live in those who were fortunate to have known her."
West said the plaque to be set underneath the memorial tree includes a peace symbol, representing Courtney's peace-loving nature. It will also be depicted on a memorial banner that was created recently by the 4-H Trailblazers. He said Courtney regularly wore clothing representing the peace symbol, and it was displayed in her room at home.
West said people should all focus on reaching out to others of all ages; listen, recognize and respect their issues and be available to offer support and friendship.
"We adults need to really hear our young people; we need to feel a connection to our neighbors who are in need; we need to shed tears for the baby who dies of starvation in the world every 12 seconds," he said. "Teenagers struggling with the pain in their lives are no different than elderly people struggling with their pain."
He said that Swinton had demonstrated empathy for others in need.
"Courtney Mae was a girl of great soul, of deep caring," he said. "She felt the universal suffering of others."
The tree-planting ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. on the grounds of the Warren County Cooperative Extension, 77 Schroon River Road in Warrensburg. An informal reception is to follow.
There will be brief presentations by Swinton's mother, plus a close friend of the family, and Amy Molloy, of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The tree will be planted with the help of Swinton's friends and family, event co-organizer Jamie Thackrah-Harris said.
"We really hope that young people who knew Courtney, or are struggling themselves, will want to attend," she said. "We need to be there for each other."