Community holds vigil for child lost to suicide

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  • Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald Teens and their parents came together Monday night to mourn the loss of Mikey Zavala, who died by suicide last Thursday.

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    Casey McCarthy/ Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake community members gathered at Lauzier Park for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of Mikey Zavala.

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  • Emry Dinman/Columbia Basin Herald Teens and their parents came together Monday night to mourn the loss of Mikey Zavala, who died by suicide last Thursday.

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    Casey McCarthy/ Columbia Basin Herald Moses Lake community members gathered at Lauzier Park for a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of Mikey Zavala.

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Community holds vigil for child lost to suicide

By EMRY DINMAN

Staff Writer

MOSES LAKE — Hundreds, most of them still children, huddled together as the sun set Monday evening just outside of the Lauzier Park baseball field, where Mikey Zavala roamed the outfield for a local little league baseball team, and where they mourned his death by suicide last Thursday.

He was 14, and in two weeks he would have been a freshman in high school.

His team, the Lake Monsters, turned out to Monday’s candlelight vigil in their green-and-blue jerseys to place paper lanterns along the base paths, each with a loving note written in Sharpie by someone whom he had known. A teen, shaken with grief, took a gold chain from his neck and tenderly placed it among dozens of votive candles.

Parents held their teens, and teens held each other. Classmates who had seen Zavala just days earlier expressed disbelief that he could be gone and struggled to speak. When they managed to talk, many laughed as they choked back tears, recalling Zavala’s antics.

He was a member of the Lake Monsters little league recreation team that always brought his smile onto the field. He was great at Fortnite and loved to clown around with his gamer friends. He was the youngest of three siblings, He was a lovable goofball who always had another joke to tell. He once got his hand stuck in the gap of a chair in class and needed a teacher to bring him lotion to get himself unstuck.

That’s how friends and loved ones remembered Zavala Monday night, each one wreathed with the light of the candles they held.

Along with his laughter, many described Zavala’s compassion. One of his teammates on the Lake Monsters, privately described the struggles they had experienced with bullying, recalling how Zavala’s friendship was a refuge from that difficulty.

“A bunch of people would pick on me in elementary school, and he was a good older buddy,” a teammate said. “He was a good friend, and protective, and he would always let me hang out with him and his friends when no one wanted to hang out with me.”

The team recently had its first experience with death, when a father of a team member passed away, said Head Coach Mike Shea. Losing a team member in addition has been particularly tough on the kids, Shea said, particularly with someone as vibrant as Zavala.

“He was always happy, always smiling, always just a pleasure to be around,” Shea said. “We’d be down in the dugout and Mikey would crack a joke and it would liven everybody up, or we’d be down and think we were losing, and then Mikey would hit a triple out of nowhere. He was an inspiration.” A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the family with funeral expenses, and can be found at gofundme.com/f/mikey-zavala-gone-too-soon.

In the wake of a youth suicide, mental health experts caution parents and peers to be vigilant for suicide contagion, when a suicide in a community is followed by an increase in suicidal activity. Two Moses Lake middle schoolers died by suicide in quick succession last summer.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide or are experiencing an emotional crisis or sense of hopelessness, call the Grant Integrated Services 24 hour crisis line at 509-765-1717, or text HOME to 741741.

Emry Dinman can be reached via email at edinman@columbiabasinherald.com.

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