A local mother is hoping to turn a tragedy into a positive, maybe even saving kids’ lives.
Peoria resident Keegan Beal, 11, committed suicide April 6 because he was being bullied at school. His mother, Kelly Beal, described him as an “old soul” and a “sensitive” kid who loved to travel, collect fedoras and was a fan of superheroes.
“He had some pretty awesome dance moves too,” Beal said. “Made everyone smile.”
Beal was surrounded by her family and friends at a Monday news conference hosted by Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood.
The saddened mother battled emotions to speak candidly about her son, saying he was not much of sports fan, but liked to watch other kids play video games on YouTube, a popular past time for 11-year-olds.
“He wanted to be a YouTube star,” Beal said.
Beal, a single mother, says Keegan would come home from school, describing how he would be pushed down stairs and once was hit with a tennis racquet. But, Keegan refused to single out those abusing him.
“He didn’t want to get the kids in trouble,” Beal said. “But we could tell he wasn’t feeling good.”
Beal transferred Keegan to a different school and noticed an immediate mood swing, for the better.
“He was back to his old self,” Beal said.
Unfortunately, it was after the signs of personal struggle decreased that Keegan decided to take his own life.
“He left all of us a letter,” Grandmother Kathey Rampy said. “He said he wasn’t sad. He said he was at peace with going to heaven.”
The family hopes to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to other kids, wishing to turn their Peoria home into a “safe haven” for both the bullied and the bullies.
“Possibly have them get haircuts.” Beal said. “When you sit them down for a haircut, stuff comes out. I have musician friends that want to be part of it. We had talked about having a trained therapy dog.”
Beal said bullies also have their own struggles, and they should be included.
“One of the things that is challenging today is bullying can happen 24/7,” said Beth Derry, Superintendent of the Peoria County Regional Office of Education.
Derry also says you need to be aware of when your kids feel, “trapped, agitated, wreckless, sleeping too little, sleeping too much or displaying extreme mood swings.”
Kelly Beal says Keegan could recognize pain in other students, even when he was suffering.
“He started some anti-bullying clubs,” Beal said. “Our whole purpose is to continue that mission. His whole club was to get kids against the trees and talk and hang out.”
Beal says her son would gather with other bullied kids, trying to offer them encouragement.
“I could never put into words how proud I am of that little boy,” Beal said. “I think he, again, going back to the old soul. He was wise beyond his years.”
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.
You can also learn more about the signs of suicide HERE.