Conner was born on January 14, 1999. From the very beginning, he was a happy and go-lucky child. Our oldest son, Conner was always smiling and being a “clown.” Growing up in a Christian home, Conner was compassionate and loving to all. He never hesitated to lend a helping hand or to be there for someone in need. He made friends easily, and his kind soul and charm naturally attracted people of all ages.

Very active at a young age, Conner didn’t hesitate to jump into sports. Flag football and soccer suited him well, however he found true joy later in golf and lacrosse. Until 9th grade, he attended a Christian private school, building a solid foundation both spiritually and educationally. He wasn’t immune to the typical adolescent and teen struggles, although he seemed resilient and driven to overcome any challenge.

As with many teens, Conner’s life was a mix of ups and downs. Grades, girls, social interaction, and the stresses of teen life were common. He worked at TopGolf Alexandria and loved interacting and talking with guests of all ages, genders and races. Conner could talk. He could carry a conversation, look you in the eyes, and use words.

Shortly before his passing, the stresses and challenges of teen life became evident. A new girlfriend, working out to stay in shape, intense focus on appearance and his new girlfriend. Little did we know that these “positive changes” would soon manifest themselves in the most negative ways. On October 1, 2016, our family’s faith was shaken, and our world turned upside down when we received news that our Conner had died by suicide. 

While we will never know all the underlying reasons that Conner found life too hard to continue, we do know that the intense emotions – and inability to handle such extreme changes – was too much. Although Conner had the most wonderful group of teammates and friends on the Hayfield HS golf and lacrosse teams, as well as a long list of childhood friends and extended family, Conner didn’t show or speak about his struggles. Even on the day he passed, fellow students mentioned how happy and cheerful he was during the school day. Little did we know, a timebomb was ticking and he was trying to hold on.

Being a teenager is tough. With a solid Christian foundation and a family and friends that loved him, how could Conner keep all his thoughts and feelings inside? How could his parents, siblings, friends, teammates, coworkers not see the extent of his feelings of helplessness and hopelessness? He was always willing to help others and support someone in need but why couldn’t he reach out for help himself? Inexplicably, he was either too paralyzed or did not know where to seek it from. On October 1, 2016, in the middle of the night, Conner succumbed to the pain. He made the irrevocable, fatal, heartbreakingly final decision to end his life to fix a temporary problem. Conner was 17 years old. He was insanely handsome, was a fantastic athlete, and a good student. Conner was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin and a friend. Conner was sweet, generous, loving, kind, smart (and smart-assed!), witty and hilarious.

What could have been done? Why didn’t he come to us? What if school had talked about the warning signs of suicide and mental health? What if someone had talked and explained that this problem was temporary, and this wasn’t the end of the world? What if someone could have gotten to him and his still-developing teen brain that only has a narrow perspective? Did he feel that asking for help was a sign of weakness? Would someone understand his pain and feelings?

While we have lost our child, we have chosen to not have his death be in vain. We know that we are not the first ones to suffer such a loss. We also know that this type of loss is becoming all to frequent. We are committed to sharing our story, Conner’s story and working towards keeping this from happening to any other teen and any other family. Conner was a piece of the puzzle that makes up our great big family, and without his piece we are no longer whole. It’s true, the rest of us are strong and are holding our pieces together so firmly so as not to fall apart, but we were much stronger when his piece was in place.

Suicide does not define Conner or his family. Conner was much more than that moment in time. His memory is alive and well as he watches over us work towards our mission of ending suicide and having everyone know “It’s OK to not be OK”.

Taking Conner’s memory, and turning our loss into something positive, this is the ConnerStrong way.

In June of 2017, we launched The ConnerStrong Foundation with the hope that we could help our community and reach at least one person in Conner’s memory.

We cannot change the world by ourselves, but just like the butterfly effect, a small flutter of a butterfly’s wings can make a difference in the world.

Conner is our butterfly.
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