DeKALB – As Laura and Brett Bartosik struggled with their 20-year-old son’s suicide, a friend suggested holding a scavenger hunt that would bring people together to celebrate his life.
The Cortland couple jumped at the chance to try to turn their pain into hope.
To honor Seth Bartosik, a Cortland resident who took his own life June 26, friends and family are hosting the inaugural Sethtastic Scavenger Hunt spanning from Friday to Sunday. Participants will chase clues, talk to strangers and – in Seth’s spirit – be adventurous.
Before Seth Bartosik died, friend Kyle Segura had been toying with the idea of having a scavenger hunt similar to one their group of friends held to celebrate graduating from DeKalb High School in 2012.
“I wanted everybody to be together, not in sadness, but being happy and having fun,” Segura said.
Segura posed the scavenger hunt idea to Brett and Laura Bartosik during a story night at their house where more than a dozen of Seth Bartosik’s friends gathered to share their memories.
“It’s something we knew Seth had enjoyed and we wanted to be a part of it,” said Laura Bartosik, 43. “We want the kids in our lives because Seth always called his friends his family. So we want to be part of that family even if Seth isn’t here.”
The money raised through the scavenger hunt will be donated to a culinary student or hockey player in need. The Bartosiks will match whatever is raised to donate to Suicide Prevention Services. People also can make donations through their gofundme.com site, which can be found by searching the inaugural Sethtastic scavenger hunt.
The event costs $10 per person and is open to anyone 18 or older. Participants have to be in teams of three or four and must record or take pictures of themselves completing some of the hundreds of activities the Bartosiks are keeping secret until the event.
Registration starts at 5 p.m. Friday at a location being revealed through a series of clues on the Sethtastic Scavenger Hunt’s Facebook page. All videos must be submitted by 3 a.m. Sunday. An award ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Seth Bartosik exuded charisma and humor, friends and family said. An only child, he rode a skateboard, played hockey, liked to cook and had a penchant for making people laugh with his quick wit, his parents remembered.
He also saw the good in people, Brett Bartosik said, even if they didn’t see it themselves.
“He made people find their own self-worth,” said Brett Bartosik, 45.
He opened people up to new experiences, said ex-girlfriend Nicolenne Tross, 19, who is gathering the prizes and community support for the event. Seth Bartosik took Tross on her first roller coaster ride and to new restaurants, things she never would have done without him.
“I can talk about him for hours, and I wouldn’t know where to start or end,” Tross said.
But Seth also struggled. After graduating high school he was adamant about not going to college if he was uncertain about his future career, Laura Bartosik said. He enrolled in Elgin Community College’s culinary program in May.
Although he had some personal battles, Seth’s family said his bright demeanor and plans for the future masked the emotional turmoil that preceded his death.
“It’s hard to know that life can grab a hold of something and take it so easily,” Segura said. “You keep looking for the answer to the question that keeps you up at night.”
Coping with loss
Searching for answers is common among suicide survivors, said Suicide Prevention Services Executive Director Stephanie Weber. She lost her mother to suicide in 1979 and quickly connected to the Bartosiks.
She let the Bartosiks know they’re not alone. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 12 to 24, Weber said. Often, young men and women don’t realize that things can get better.
In DeKalb County, the coroner’s office has investigated seven suicides this year; nine suicides in 2013; and 10 in 2012. Of the people who committed suicide in DeKalb County in the past three years, only 15 percent were younger than 30.
Counseling and support groups help in the healing process, Weber said, and so do stories.
“What survivors really want to do is hear their loved one’s name and hear a good story about that person,” Weber said.
Laura and Brett Bartosik said the importance of stories from friends, videos and voice mails of Seth Bartosik has been immeasurable. Finding a voice mail of Seth making a noise like a pterodactyl – something that slightly irritated her before – was a small victory for Laura Bartosik in the past month.
“You have that voice; you have that video,” Laura Bartosik said. “You need every single connection to get up in the morning sometimes.”
The Bartosiks and Seth’s friends hope the scavenger hunt will bring some solace to those who knew him. But they also hope it will show young people across the area that they are not alone in any of their struggles.
“I think the kids should feel that and they should know the community supports them,” Laura Bartosik said. “I think they need to know that.”
Brett Bartosik wants young adults and teenagers to feel they can reach out for help and have someone to talk to about any issues in their lives. The couple plans to continue with this mission after the scavenger hunt by establishing a foundation and holding different events throughout the year.
For Weber, the potential impact of their efforts is clear.
“I think they will save some lives,” she said.
If you go
What: The Sethtastic Scavenger Hunt
When: 5 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Sunday, with an awards ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Follow the Sethtastic Scavenger Hunt on Facebook for information on opening and closing locations.
If you need help
Call Suicide Prevention Services at 800-273-8255.