Bartel Foundation Make a Difference Honoree


There is one thing Suzie Bartel wants every parent to know: “Educate yourself. Find out the truth of what’s going on in your kid’s life. The next time your kid comes to you and tells you they’re not feeling good about themselves, you take it seriously. It’s easy to say, ‘This will never happen to me,’ but it can. It’s been proven time and time again there is no discrimination for suicide. It happens to every type of individual. You need to wake up and respond appropriately and know what to do when that time comes.”


Bartel’s son, Ryan took his own life on October 15, 2014, three months shy of his 18th birthday. Suzie Bartel founded the Ryan Bartel Foundation to prevent youth suicide through awareness, educational programs and activities that support and empower youth, families and the community at-large. Foundation programs are focused on building acceptance, connection, resiliency and hope.


The Loudoun School-Business Partnership Executive Council will honor the Ryan Bartel Foundation with its Make a Difference Award during its annual Partnership Breakfast on Friday, March 13, at the National Conference Center. 


Suzie Bartel recently spoke about what moved she and her husband, Ben, to set up the foundation bearing her son’s name. “We had had a lot of Ryan’s friends who visited us after he died. Most of them were going through difficulties, challenges. What was really eye-opening for me is that none of them shared this with their parents. As time went on, it became very evident that there was this big communication gap between what the kids are saying to one another and what their parents know. As a result of that, we have all these terrible tragedies. There isn’t any trust.


“I knew I had to do something with that information. I had this incredible yearning to help them, but I didn’t know how.”


The Bartels began their philanthropic efforts with a scholarship to be awarded at what would have been Ryan’s Woodgrove High School graduation. “We received these heart-rending letters from students who talked about another student being so special because they had shown real acceptance of other kids,” said Suzie Bartel. “They weren’t judgmental.”


Three scholarships were awarded.


The next fall, Suzie Bartel went to Woodgrove and asked if there was a way to help students communicate about their mental health struggles. She gathered 20 students in a  room and discussed what they could do to foster better communication about mental health. “We spent two hours in that room and it was just so inspirational. Once you let them open up on this subject, they were so full of ideas. They had so many solutions. They could pinpoint all the problems and how to deal with them.”


One of the biggest problems the students identified was being discouraged from seeking help for mental-health issues. “The stigma is still out there,” said Bartel. “Obviously things have changed a lot in the past five years. It’s gotten better, but the stigma is still there.”


To help overcome this stigma, the Ryan Bartel Foundation is working with Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) in the Sources of Strength program. The mission of Sources of Strength is to prevent suicide by increasing help-seeking behaviors and promoting connections between peers and caring adults. The Ryan Bartel Foundation is training community members (especially parents) in Sources of Strength. “If you can connect with your kid, you’re talking the same language, you’re going to build a much stronger family,” said Bartel. “We have to be consistent in our messaging.”


The Ryan Bartel Foundation also sponsors The Fort, an inclusive place for teens to de-stress, connect with peers and learn new skills to better cope with the pressures of life. The Fort meets once a month for three hours at a location that rotates between eastern, central and western Loudoun County to reach as many teens as possible.


Bartel refers to a comment on a student survey when describing The Fort: “The Fort is a place where it’s OK to not always be OK.”


The Ryan Bartel Foundation is currently seeking an executive director so it can expand its services beyond Loudoun County. “I think we have a blueprint that could be taken anywhere,” said Bartel. “So many areas are crying out for mental health and suicide-prevention services for kids. If it’s effective, why not spread it everywhere?”  


Bartel has this advice for students contemplating suicide: “What they’re feeling in that moment of crisis; you have to understand that’s temporary and it’s going to pass and it’s always going to get better. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always help. Even if you can’t get it from your parents, there are so many people that are able to provide that help. It’s there and it’s readily available to you.


“When kids are in that moment, they feel totally alone, like they’re the only ones going through it. They need to understand that they’re not.”   


The 21st Annual School-Business Partnership Breakfast will begin at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, March 13, at the National Conference Center in Leesburg.


Table sponsorships for this event are now available.   

  • Deluxe table sponsorships for the School-Business Partnership Breakfast cost $1,500. This includes a preferred-location table, logo placement in the program, logo placement in the pre-breakfast presentation, logo placement on the stage and five seats at a 10-person table (the remaining five seats will be donated to school staff and teachers).
  • A triple table sponsorship is $1,500. This includes five seats at each of three tables with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
  • A double table sponsorship is $1,000. This includes five seats at each of two tables with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
  • A single table sponsorship is $500. This includes five seats for the sponsor with the remaining five seats donated to school staff and teachers.
  • An individual seat costs $50.


Sponsorships are now available at 


The deadline for registration is Friday, March 6.


The National Conference Center is located at 18980 Upper Belmont Place, Leesburg.