“Bryce had a very disciplined meditation practice,” Winelle said. “As a matter of fact, I think his practice became more disciplined than mine.”
Last year, Winelle said she encouraged her eldest son to seek therapy with his anticipated transition to college and other life changes.
“I felt like it was good for him to have somebody to talk to that was unbiased, to tend to his personal feelings and emotions in regards to that,” she said.
However, Winelle said, when she sought out resources, such as those at the school, “we just kind of got lost in the system.”
Winelle said the aim of the suicide-prevention initiative is to “start getting people comfortable with mental-health terms, getting them comfortable with the idea that mental health is a normal part of health and to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.”
The football initiative aims to provide high-school players with opportunities for camps, training and 7-on-7 games (an offseason competition that Gowdy cherished, Winelle said). The group’s leaders also want to raise funds for concussion research, a health issue also important to Gowdy, as he had suffered a concussion last season, according to his mother.
Winelle said that about 30 of Gowdy’s friends have roles in the foundation, including his girlfriend, Camellia Robinson. The idea hatched days after Gowdy’s death. It took on greater urgency, Winelle said, after the deaths of two more Deerfield Beach students.
On Feb. 1, a teammate of Gowdy’s, Terrance Jackson, was shot during a fight after his grandfather’s funeral and later died. On Feb. 24, a classmate and friend of Gowdy’s, Alexis Marion, took her life in the same manner that authorities say Gowdy did.
There are additional plans for other talks such as Friday's, on topics such as art therapy and meditation, and also for a scholarship in his name. The website was recently launched.
“I can definitely say that just being surrounded by Bryce’s friends has been really instrumental in my healing process, as well as my boys,” Winelle said.
Winelle, who had dealt with homelessness before her son’s death, said that her family moved into a long-term residence in February. Online donations originally intended to help cover funeral expenses reached almost $125,000, which enabled Winelle and her two sons to have the means for stable housing.
Winelle said she has been focusing on her two surviving sons, Brisai and Brayden.
Being quarantined, she said, “has contributed to our healing rather than hindered it. It’s definitely, I think, helped a lot.”
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text the 24-hour hotline at 800-273-8255. For more information, go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.