A few weeks ago, Caryn and a bunch of Rob’s friends participated in a walk in Long Island that raised money and awareness for suicide prevention. Since I couldn’t be there, I asked Rob’s best friend Sarah to tell me all about it.
So last Sunday on October 27, 2019, Team TYCO walked in the AFSP Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk at Jones Beach. Now I’m not sure if you remember the Long Island weather forecast for that day, but basically it was a shit show–torrential downpours, insane wind speeds, and to top it all off, 50 degree weather (without the windchill).
Some of you may be wondering what the hell Team TYCO is? Well, for those of you who don’t know, TYCO makes RC cars, trucks, motorcycles etc. Now if you haven’t picked up on the obvious, RC are Robbie’s initials, so TYCO was always something Robbie used for usernames, passwords, etc.
Our team was comprised of the usual cats–myself, Caryn (of course), my cousin Jacqui (aka Cuzzy Lumpkin as Robbie called her) & her boyfriend, my mother Linda, my brother Ryan, Jacob Silverman, Matt Baluyot, Chris Moro & his girlfriend Sam, Mike Chiovitti, Scott Robalino, Kaitlin Krol, Steph Freda, one of Robbie’s Binghamton friends Kelly, and Jamie Rosenblatt.
We all came sporting our Team TYCO shirts, which had an image of his infamous four-leaf clover tattoo on the front with the line “Life Rolls On,” and the back had one of the most beautiful pictures ever taken of Rob with the words “Team TYCO” above it in his favorite color, purple.
The entire environment of the walk was surprisingly uplifting (at least to me) considering the circumstances that brought us all there. They had a snack & refreshment stand, a stand where you could get different colored beaded necklaces to represent why you walk, another where you sign a wall in honor of your lost loved one, a spot to decorate a seashell for lost loved ones to be left on the beach, and much more.
We were met by a sea of people who were in similar shitty situations as us, who have felt the effects of losing a loved one not just in general, but to that “special” thing called suicide. Although none of us knew each other, everyone there was compassionate towards one another & shared smiles and head nods of “acceptance.” There was no passing of judgment for what your loved one had done or why. In those moments, it was all weirdly okay.
After gathering our teammates and getting ourselves ready, all the teams met in front of the stage for some announcements. While we stood there talking/catching up, a woman from another team came over and gave us stickers that read “What would you miss?” as part of an initiative to get people talking about mental health/suicide prevention. I couldn’t help but stare at this woman in awe because to me, she looked JUST LIKE ROBBIE! And I wasn’t the only one who thought so! A few of us were weirded out, so I felt compelled to tell her & show her his picture on our shirt, which made her uncomfortable and freaked her out. But I felt as though it was a sign from Rob that he was with us and knew that we were there for him.
Once they finally allowed us to begin, the downpours began! To be honest, I don’t think any of us realized what we truly signed up for. This walk was WAYYYYYYY longer than any of us had expected/prepared for, especially in that weather! Within a matter of minutes and only about half a mile to a mile into the walk, we were all soaked, freezing, and wondering where the finish line was.
All of a sudden, I heard Caryn’s voice telling us all to slow down & stop so we could discuss our options. It basically came down to either a) we continue to walk and get soaking wet, cold, miserable, and possibly sick or b) we stop and turn back. None of us necessarily “wanted” to stop because of the reason behind us walking in the first place, yet at the same time, we so desperately wanted to give up. In that moment, Caryn reassured us that “we don’t have anything to prove to anyone. We don’t have to keep going, thinking we have something to prove!”
After that, a few of us turned back and ended the walk, but a good handful of us continued on. I half-jokingly said that this tumultuous storm we were fighting to walk through was metaphorical of the storm that was the internal struggle of Robbie’s everyday life.
We got about a third of the way through the walk before we decided to call it quits, which again felt metaphorical to me. Caryn and I threw our customized seashells out onto the sand (I feared that Rob would have the wind throw it back at me for quitting on him), then shared a sopping wet hug before Caryn went on her way back towards the start of the walk and to her warm, dry car.
Of course, my brother didn’t notice beforehand that we had all stopped, and continued on walking. To be honest, I think for him, this walk was much bigger than Robbie or anyone else lost. He himself has suffered from suicidal thoughts/depression, and I truly believe he did not want to let Robbie down, but even more so, he didn’t want to let himself down.
We headed back to the car and pulled up to the entrance of the walk, warming ourselves while waiting for my brother to show up. After about 15 or 20 minutes, he appeared smiling while also miserable, wet, and cold, but proud that he had finished the walk & was the only one out of us all that did. (To answer your question, yes, I feel like a complete asshole for giving up like that.) I also feel as though Robbie was laughing at us the entire time, especially me because I HATE when my clothes are wet & stick to me.
In the end, our initial fundraising goal was $500, but Team TYCO raised $3,724 in honor of Robbie. I couldn’t be prouder and more thankful for everyone who was involved. The amount of love, consideration, support, and desire for change from all parties who donated their time, money, or both will not go unnoticed. I know that Robbie is smiling down on us. I can feel that big, warm, infectious smile every day.
Larry & Zach, I made sure to have shirts made for you both so that you could forever be a part of Team TYCO. Please send me pics of you wearing them!
A few days ago, Caryn told me one more quick story about the walk:
A woman came over to me and asked, “Who is that?” referring to the back of Sarah’s shirt. And I said, “My son.” “What a great picture!” she said. “He looks so happy and what a great smile!” I told her that the photo was taken last Christmas and that he had passed away in February. She nodded and said, “It just goes to show you that you can never tell how someone is feeling.”