Friend uses social media to honor one life, save others
By Denise Crosby email@example.com October 25, 2013 8:26PM
This pic is of Haleigh Nesbitt (left) and Quincee Barnes-Miller.
To see Haleigh Nesbitt’s video go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8no7KuwIseI.
To donate to the destroyed grave monument fund go to http://www.gofundme.com/4xxhng
Updated: November 28, 2013 6:39AM
Last Sunday, on the third anniversary of her close friend’s suicide, Haleigh Nesbitt posted a video on YouTube she created and titled “The Lowdown on Mental Health, Suicide and Grieving.”
It was the young woman’s way of coping with the death of Quincee Barnes-Miller, a Batavia High School sophomore who took her own life on Oct. 22, 2010. It was also a way to try and make an impact.
Nesbitt, who grew up in Geneva, admits she’s got a proactive personality, thanks to her father, who began teaching her back in first grade that it’s not enough to “see change … you have to be change.”
A few days after posting the video, Nesbitt found that opportunity again.
On Wednesday she learned that sometime after Sunday, when an aunt had gone to visit the grave at Garfield Farm Cemetery in LaFox, the large, three-piece monument had been destroyed. Tire marks were at the site and Campton Hills police are investigating. But the family does not know if the damage was done on purpose or accident.
It didn’t matter to Nesbitt. Again she turned to the Internet, this time creating a page at gofundme.com. to replace the beautiful and now broken monument. In about 17 hours, Nesbitt raised $1,435 …well on her way to the goal of $2,000. By Friday afternoon, she had close to $3,000, so she upped her goal to $5,000.
“I don’t want her family to go through the stress of reaching out to people to help them pay for the damages that someone else made,” she wrote on the fundraising page.
Her reason, she told me when I caught up with her by phone, was more succinct.
“I had to do something,” she said.
It only takes a brief conversation with Nesbitt, who turns 20 next month, to realize the key to her makeup is, indeed, the word “do.”
“You can sit around and mope,” she stated matter-of-factly, “or you can go out and do something to fix things.”
Nesbitt knew something needed fixing in her own life, and her community, after the rash of teen suicides — four including Quincee’s — that rocked the Batavia area in a one-year span.
Nesbitt admits she was in a dark place herself, and saw many of her peers also struggling with depression. Too often, she noted, they turn to drugs and alcohol instead of seeking out positive avenues that are available.
Nesbitt moved with her father to Georgia this spring, in part, because “I had to get out of that toxic environment.” Her frustrations were evident in her voice.
“Kids don’t see a way out,” she said. “They don’t realize there is help.”
In memory of Quincee and the other three teens, Nesbitt made the YouTube video that so candidly reveals her own battles with depression, including three suicide attempts. It was the final one, after Quincee died, she says in the video, that led to “an epiphany” … and dramatic change in her life.
Nesbitt insists she’s in a much better place now, and is excited about her future that includes a career in special education and stint at Disney World next year which will allow her to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Nesbitt is also thrilled with the feedback she’s gotten from her fundraising efforts to replace Quincee’s monument.
“I’ve been blown away,” she said of the number of donors who have already pledged money.
For Quincee’s family, many of whom are vacationing together during this difficult anniversary week, the unexpected turn of events has brought a roller-coaster of emotions.
“We are all heartbroken” about the monument, said aunt Sharon Miller, who was with Quincee’s mother Blythe in Florida when I spoke with her on Friday. “But Haleigh has just been amazing. She’s worked so hard and we appreciate it so much.”
The family, added Miller, is overwhelmed by this turn of events and will deal with the issue when they return home, as well as the outpouring of support that is hitting as the story spreads.
In the meantime, Nesbitt hopes the YouTube video she also made in memory of her friend helps “trump this stupid stereotype” about depression, and encourages young people to reach for a lifeline.
“I just do what I can,” she said.
With a big emphasis on “do.”