As many of you know, I had a stroke and blood clot in my brain that almost cost me my life last year. So I have gotten back into cycling. Of great encouragement is my friend Bill Taitano who we nicknamed Mr Century, as he rides so many 100 mile races.
BIll has also faced several major health challenges having a pacemaker installed in his heart last year. Yet, he has overcome these by the grace of God, and good medical support and will ride the Race Across America this upcoming June, in honor of his late daughter and son-in-law who died in a murder suicide some time back. Bill has a message of hope and healing for people considering suicide, or those affected by it. His bicycle and faith in God have given him a second lease on life, and at age 72, he still rides strong.
In order to do this https://www.raceacrossamerica.org/ they need support for a 22 member team. 4 riders, plus vans, accomodation, video team, etc. that will attempt this grueling journey to raise support and awareness of the need for suicide intervention.
January 14, 2020
On June 19th, the 2021 Race Across America will begin in Oceanside, California. I along with seven other fantastic bicycle racers and eight awesome crew members will be on the starting line for the 3,000-mile epic ride across twelve states with 170,000 feet of grueling climbing to finish in Annapolis, Maryland within a nine-day cutoff. My team, Team Suicide Prevention is racing to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues while we spread hope from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to the boardwalks on the Atlanta Ocean.
Check out this short message as the team and I make our final preparations to begin this journey. To learn more about the team and our mission, please check out http://www.teamsuicideprevention.com There’s a donate link as well if you feel inclined to support this important mission with a tax-deductible donation. Once the race starts on June 19th, please check out https://www.raamrace.org for complete real-time race tracking to monitor our progress. The team will also be posting to our Instagram/Facebook feeds as well so you can be there in spirit with us as we tackle this challenge that is sure to test our collective teamwork, will, and determination. We are ready!!
Bills story began with a murder-suicide in his family:
I have been inspired to share my story after reading the moving stories of other Team Suicide Prevention racers and crew. It is not easy to share a “checkered” past and revisit the death of a loved one but if I can help one person change their path and address unresolved anger and grief, then I will be successful in my message.
A childhood packed with physical and mental abuse and the loss of my daughter in a murder-suicide have been the most significant challenges to my mental health. My story is lengthy but if you will stick with me until the end you will understand how painful experiences can strengthen character and create opportunities to help others.
Born on the island of Guam in 1948, my early childhood memories are of a loving extended island family. I only lived there until the age of 5 but the location of my birth is important because it was the stage for my mother to meet a man named Lee Wormington. He was a WW II Army soldier stationed in France, landing in Guam because he had a construction background useful to the rebuilding effort. My mother was only a teenager when she suffered the atrocities of war as a prisoner of the Japanese. It took me many years to realize they both suffered from PTSD.
In the early 1950’s we boarded a ship and moved to America. We drove from CA to Oklahoma and I saw snow for the first time.
We were very poor. My dad got fired frequently due to a bad temper and had to find work away from home. My mother only had a 6th-grade education so my older sister and I pitched in by selling pop bottles and picking radishes. I was working with my dad, called Mr. Lee by co-workers, at the age of 10. It was hard work: hauling concrete in a commercial wheelbarrow, building forms, and digging ditches from sun up to sundown. If Mr. Lee didn’t think I worked hard enough he would yell, curse me and thump me in the head with his fist to hide the abuse in my hair. I was introduced to cigarettes and alcohol at a tender age. If I had not had the protection of my older sister, Judy, and the encouragement of my mother, I doubt that I could have survived my childhood. When I lost the two most influential women during my childhood, I struggled to rebound in 2006 and again in 2010.
Mr. Lee’s mental abuse didn’t end with mean and hateful words. He never followed through on promises. He said we would go fishing or hunting and I would get things together then he would have some excuse why he couldn’t go. That’s why I am always on time, plan ahead and always follow through with commitments. I refuse to be like Mr. Lee.
Life was fast and wild as a teenager in the 1960’s. I acted as a protector for my younger sister Carolyn, offering to beat up anyone who tried to hurt her. Mr. Lee continued to abuse me but I was bigger and stronger as well as a trained wrestler and martial arts competitor so I fought back. I wanted to beat the life out of the man I called father and almost did until my mother stopped our fight.
I met my best friend, John Argo, in early adolescence. We shared many stories with some questionable behavior involved but he always stood by my side and even stood in front of me to shield me from Mr. Lee’s assault.
I left home right after graduating from Del City High School in 1967. I left with my mother’s strength, perseverance, caring heart and “never back down from a fight” mentality. I left with Mr. Lee’s hard labor skill set and deep-seated anger.
I did experience fatherly support and encouragement from my best friend’s father, Raymond Argo, as well as Joe Fleck who got me a job with Oklahoma Natural Gas where I worked for the next 40 years. I thrived due to the love I received from my mother, sisters and these two great men.
The Vietnam War was going strong after high school graduation and I wanted to be a part of it. I flunked the physical due to a shoulder injury I suffered in wrestling. But , that day brought a realization and clarity I had been looking for since birth. The sergeant told me the name I had given him didn’t match the name on my birth certificate. It hadn’t occurred to me to look at the certificate before my interview. I found my legal name was my mother’s maiden name. Now, I understood… I wasn’t Mr. Lee’s son. He didn’t even want to adopt me during those many years. I went home and confronted my mother with the news and she confirmed the fact that my father was a married man from the Philippines. I took my grandmother’s maiden name, TAITANO.
With the truth of my birth revealed I was filled with anger and insecurities. I did many things I am not proud of. I had as little interaction with Mr.Lee as possible for many years. My mother acquired Alzheimer’s and asked me to take care of Mr. Lee upon her death. I loved my mother and wanted to follow through with her request. He lived in my house, continuing the verbal abuse and gambling all my mother’s money (as well as his own) away. One day he told me that he hated “the little bastard” from the day he laid eyes on me. I told my sister, living in CA, to come to get her father as he was no longer welcome in my house. When I learned of his death I felt nothing.
I have been blessed with 2 beautiful daughters and 3 grandkids. I spend a lot of time with my grandkids engaged in activities like bicycling and physical games; the special moments of hugging, holding hands and cuddling with their Papa Kula will be remembered throughout their lives. I wasn’t with the mother(s) of my girls very long, but was involved with my daughters as much as allowed. They are the reason I turned my life around at the age of 40 and focused on health, fitness and becoming the best role model possible.
In July 2016 my life changed forever. I got a call from the Kauai, Hawaii police. My daughter Celeste had been murdered by her ex-husband. This event was a murder-suicide as Chayse murdered my daughter, threatened to murder his daughter then killed himself. My 9-year-old granddaughter, Pierce, witnessed the unimaginable.
I immediately flew to Kauai to rescue Pierce. My focus was my granddaughter and the “business” I had to attend to; I could not begin to process my own grief. I had so much assistance from the police department and Celeste’s friends. Back in Oklahoma, my friends were getting my home ready to accommodate a 9 old year girl. There was so much compassion, support and love coming my way. After many days in Kauai, I received clearance to take Pierce home with me as her guardian.
Once home, it wasn’t long until my daughter Brandy and husband Eric approached me about letting Pierce live with them and become co-guardians. I too felt this was in Pierce’s best interest. Pierce has been adopted by Brandy and Eric and has 2 siblings who adore her.
Pierce continues counseling with Chris King, who specializes in working with youth surviving difficult experiences. She attends Lincoln Christian School and is on the honor roll. I am very proud of how hard she has worked on her studies since returning to Oklahoma. She was accustomed to a very relaxed educational system in Kauai resulted in her testing below grade level in math, science and reading. I give Brandy and Eric all the credit for guiding Pierce to become the giving, protective, intelligent, and spirited young woman she is.
The death of Celeste has changed me. How could it not? My son-in-law reached out to me when life on Kauai turned dark due to his day trading resulting in the loss of their entire fortune. I was angry about what he had done and was focused on helping my daughter and Pierce. All I could offer Chayse was to get professional help. Hindsight is 20/20. Would Celeste be dead today if I had paid more attention to Chayse’s depression and despair?
The death of my daughter has brought new opportunities and friendships into my life. She is my guiding light for suicide prevention. Over the past 2 years, I have been co-Captain of Team Suicide Prevention…a cycling team participating in the Race Across America in June 2021. I have met and developed friendships with those on the frontlines of suicide prevention who are experts in the field. If I had only known what I know today about suicide prevention, maybe I could have altered the actions Chayse took on July 18, 2016.
These are the principles I live by.
•Life is short.
•Live every day like it is your last.
•Love the ones you are with.
•Forgive those who hurt you.
•Don’t sweat the small stuff.
•Be the best role model you can be.
•Get involved when it is easier not to.
•Suicide is preventable.
Please join Team Suicide Prevention by visiting
www.teamsuicideprevention.com. Your donation will help us spread hope, save lives and raise money for organizations working on the frontlines of suicide prevention.
I appreciate you reading my story. Blll
Thank you for taking the time to learn about an issue that is quietly taking so many of our loved ones right before our eyes, Suicide. Nationally Suicide is among the tenth leading causes of death in the United States and is the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Twenty-two veterans per day make the heartbreaking choice to end their life by suicide. In 2017, more first responders (Police and Firemen) took their own lives than died in the line of duty. From 2007 to 2017 suicide is up 56% among those age 10-24. One in four adults live with a significant mental health challenge, including severe depression. In total 47,000 Americans per year end their lives at their own hands. If you are riding on an elevator with three other people, statistically one of those with you may be suffering in silence.
Captains Eric Gomez and Bill Taitano and their twenty-two-person team invite you to become a sponsor for our inaugural participation in the world renowned 2020 Race Across America (RAAM) competition. Their team, “Team Suicide Prevention”, will participate in the 2020 RAAM competition and will raise awareness and funds for organizations including The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through their participation. Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the most respected and longest running ultra-endurance events in the world. RAAM is seen as a pinnacle of athletic achievement like the European Grand Cycling Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a Espana and Giro de Italia) but the greater sporting community as well.
RAAM is not a stage race, RAAM is one continual stage, once the clock starts it does not stop until the finish line. Racers must cycle 3000 miles, night and day, across 12 states, and climb over 170,000 vertical feet. Team racers are granted a maximum of nine days to complete the course. Our journey will be documented in film and many whose lives have been changed forever will be featured in the documentary release. The 2020 RAAM will begin on June 20, 2020 and will include racers from at least 20 countries as they race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. The primary source of funding for “Team Suicide Prevention” is from corporate sponsors, such as you. It is for this reason that we are asking for your support us as we Race To Save Lives.
We are racing to save lives! Our team is made up of medical professionals, former policy makers, retired executives, first responders, disabled veterans, fathers, daughters, mothers and sons, whose lives have been significantly altered by suicide or have close ties to those who have. We are racing in the toughest endurance races to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. We have partnered with key organizations who are “on the front lines and in the trenches,” in our Race to Save Lives. These organizations, The American Foundations for Suicide Prevention, Hope Is Oxygen, The Coffee Bunker, The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma are standing with us and will be the recipients of our efforts. We are working proudly with these organizations to produce a feature documentary production that will be viewed by millions in theaters, film festivals, streaming platforms, schools, civic and social groups.
Team Suicide Prevention is proud to partner with the following organizations:
Established in 1987, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education and advocacy to act against this leading cause of death.
AFSP is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.
Hope is Oxygen is an organization founded by Linda Pulver of Tulsa, Oklahoma that works with families whose lives are forever altered by suicide. Statistically suicide can “cluster” and the Boxes of Hope that are distributed immediately after a family loses a loved one have had profound impacts to those who are in the wake of a suicide.
The Coffee Bunker is an organization that offers a place where veterans can make connections with other veteran, representatives from other veteran organizations, resource people related to employment and education, and others who can facilitate transition to civilian life.
The Mental Health Association of Oklahoma is a statewide agency whose work is dedicated to promoting mental health and the equity of access to mental health care through advocacy, education, research, service, and housing.
Your sponsorship will help ensure the success of “Team Suicide Prevention”. Enclosed you will find more information about this exciting race of our sponsorship levels. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns. We will be making follow-up calls in the coming weeks and hope that we can count on your support.
Eric Gomez and Bill Taitano
TSP Team Captains
I/We (Sponsor) would like to help “Team Suicide Prevention” by co-sponsoring their June 20 -29, 2020 annual event to help prevent suicide across this nation as indicated below:
Presenting Sponsor- Naming rights to team and Executive Producer credit in documentary feature in addition to all items below;
Sponsorship Levels Sponsor Will Receive:
|PLATINUM||1. Your business highlighted in TSP 2020 RAAM Documentary “Special Features” section (on air interviews required),
2. Your business name or logo included in all team related promotional materials (water bottles, arm bands, and crew car graphics) and items below.
|GOLD||1. Listing on TSP 2020 RAAM Documentary credits,
2.Your business name and/or logo included on all race E-blasts to team supporters,
3. Your business name and/or logo on TSP’s social media sites for balance of year 2020 with a link to your website,
4. And items below.
|SILVER||1. Your business name and/or logo on team’s promotional posters & fliers,
2. Distribution of your business info at the pre-race dinner (keepsake brochure, giveaway items) pending approval,
3. And items below.
|BRONZE||Honorable mention in pre-race dinner booklet and on table tents. Complimentary tickets to pre-race dinner and reception.
And items below
|Participant||Mention on various media and film credits|
I (Sponsor) have enclosed an amount of $_____________________ to help sponsor the June 20 -29, 2020 “Team Suicide Prevent” as they compete in the 2020 Race Across America
Please submit your Sponsorship donation by November 1, 2019. Make checks payable to “Air Assurance Team Suicide Prevention” mail to 7107 S Yale box 405, Tulsa, OK 74136. On the memo line of your check, please note: “2020 TSP RAAM Race”. Air Assurance Racing is a 501c-3 organization EIN 80-0564645
We know that sponsorship benefits above are not the reason for your generous contribution. However, in appreciation for supporting “Team Suicide Prevention”, your business will be included in team advertising as indicated above. For any reason beyond our control, we reserve the right to substitute advertising mentioned above with equal or additional advertising.
Thank you very much for helping “Team Suicide Prevention”!