Mother Turns Tragedy Into Thanksgiving Day Tradition to Prevent Suicide

Money raised from the Turkey Bowl benefits the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

By Gordon Tokumatsu
|  Thursday, Nov 28, 2013  |  Updated 11:15 PM PDT
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A Southern California mother has channeled the grief over her son’s suicide into creating an annual Thanksgiving Day football tradition that benefits others suffering from depression. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2013.

Gordon Tokumatsu

A Southern California mother has channeled the grief over her son’s suicide into creating an annual Thanksgiving Day football tradition that benefits others suffering from depression. Gordon Tokumatsu reports for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Nov. 28, 2013.

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A Southern California mother has channeled the grief over her son’s suicide into creating an annual Thanksgiving Day football tradition that benefits others suffering from depression.

Norine Rishko created the Turkey Bowl after her son, Shawn, took his life in 2006. What began as a group of fewer than a dozen players has now ballooned to more than 100 players, mostly graduates of Oak Park High School, where Shawn Rishko attended.

On a nationwide day of thanks, Rishko said the real gratitude is coming from somewhere up above.

“He's watching, and he's jumping up for joy,” Rishko said of her son. “He knows and I know that we’re saving lives.”

Thanksgiving was a favorite time of year for Shawn Rishko. Before feasting with their families, he and his Oak Park High School friends would meet at the campus and catch up, throwing around the pig skin.

But behind his fun-loving demeanor, his love for the game and his friends, Shawn Rishko was hiding a secret: bipolar disorder, which, his mother said, would eventually lead him to suicide at age 22.

Now on Thanksgiving, players compete for a trophy in Shawn’s honor.

Each player pays to compete on the gridiron and there’s a raffle with all money raised benefiting the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a help-center for people suffering from the illness.

“I learned about it, sadly, after his death,” Norine Rishko said of the organization. “I wish I knew about it ahead of time.”

The Turkey Bowl helps pay for young adult and teen support groups to give them the tools they need to get help.

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