suicide prevention advocate
do not lose hope
one second is all it takes
to lose hope
Leslie Weirich is a native Hoosier, born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Leslie spent 15 years moving from Upstate New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, and finally Nashville, Tennessee before she returned home in 2003 to be closer to family.
Although her journey has taken her around the country and back home again, the one constant that remains in Leslie’s life is her passion for advocating for teens and children. During her years in Nashville, she became involved with several nonprofits that work with at risk or medically fragile children.
Throughout her career, Leslie has spent more than 30 years in sales and marketing. She attributes that background, along with her compassion for children and young people, as making her a “champion fundraiser.” During her time in Nashville, she became a board member for High Hopes which served the largest population of autistic children in the state of Tennessee. She was also the Co-Chair of their annual fundraiser along with serving as President of the Board of Directors in her final year.
When Leslie returned home to her midwest roots in 2003, she sought involvement in other organizations that would allow her to continue her work, and her passion. She was one of the original board members of The Children’s Hope Hospitality House in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She quickly became involved in many fundraising efforts that focused on providing housing for families with sick children at Lutheran Hospital.
In 2004, Leslie relocated to Elkhart County and became involved with various ministries and organizations there. She and her husband, Keith, made their home in Goshen, where both of their children, Austin and Hannah, grew up and graduated from Goshen High School.
In the Fall of 2016, tragedy struck her family as her son Austin was just starting his junior year at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. On September 10, Austin took his life and in her own words, Leslie said, “This single event changed the course of my life forever.” Since then, she says that many people have told her that they couldn’t survive such an unspeakable tragedy. They didn’t know how they could even go on if they lost a child to suicide.
However, Leslie said she felt compelled to speak out and share her story, but just wasn’t sure what that would look like. So two years after Austin’s death, in October of 2018, she began speaking locally, still not knowing where this new journey would go. Since that time, Leslie has taken her message to schools, churches and major events. She has spoken to groups as small as 25 and as large as 700. “If there’s even one person who needs to hear a message of hope, then I will go.”
Leslie said she gives students a clear message of hope along with practical tools to prevent suicide. She also teaches them how to identify the warning signs and why it’s important to reach out and ask for help before it’s too late. She continues to work with mental health experts who advise her on the content of her talks as well as becoming a member of The Suicide Prevention Coalition in her county. She strongly believes that her son Austin would want her to keep sharing their story if it saves lives...and she now has evidence of the lives it has saved.
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If you have not heard Leslie speak about her personal story of incredible loss, pain, ashes to beauty from the tragic death of her son by suicide, do it now! Her heartfelt, vulnerability with her and her husband's emotional pain through their loss, touches the hearts of so many that are going through mental health struggles. Her willingness to dedicate her life to sharing and serving others in this pandemic of mental illness will touch you deeply.
— Timothy LaGro, Licensed Mental Health Counselor M.A., LMHC, LPCC
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