Jake Luton, unfortunately, is all too familiar with suicide and it’s effects on those left behind. His longtime friend Kyle Garton, who he grew up playing sports with in Marysville, was lost to suicide in 2017.
So on Sunday Luton will be taking steps — literally — to do his part for suicide prevention.
Luton, now a quarterback for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, will be sporting shoes promoting the Marysville-based CJK Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing awareness to mental health and suicide prevention, as part of the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats initiative.
Luton, a 2014 Marysville Pilchuck High School grad who was The Herald’s 2019-20 Man of the Year in Sports after being drafted by Jacksonville in April, will sport shoes with the CJK Foundation’s logo, as well as the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number on the Nike swoosh, during pregame warm-ups for Jacksonville’s home game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday morning.
“I am proud to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention in honor of my friend, Kyle,” Luton wrote in an Instagram post. “Organizations such as the CJK Foundation are essential in empowering teens and young adults to have a voice and eliminating the stigma of mental health.”
The CJK Foundation was started in May of 2019 by April Lewis, a 2007 Marysville Pilchuck grad, whose husband was friends with two Marysville Pilchuck alums lost to suicide in their early 20s, Christopher Marin and Justin Freeman. The foundation’s name is derived from the first names of those two along with Garton, all of whom were lost between 2012 and 2017, and is a way of keeping their names alive. The three men’s mothers are involved with the foundation.
In addition to promoting awareness, the foundation provides “You Are Enough” scholarships to Marysville Pilchuck students whose lives have been affected by suicide or mental-health illness. The foundation also has the long-term goal of establishing strong mental-health curriculum at Marysville Pilchuck and surrounding schools.
“Our big mission is to break the stigma around mental health and suicide prevention,” Lewis said.
Lewis said it was Luton who approached the organization about promoting the CJK Foundation for My Cause My Cleats.
“I was shocked when I found out,” Lewis said. “My sister (Rae Bobadilla), who’s also a part of the foundation, she and her fiancee are good friends with Jake, and he approached them about choosing our foundation. I thought that was a huge honor, I was in tears when my sister said he wanted to represent us. The NFL is such a big organization, and for him to share what the CJK Foundation is all about on a bigger platform, I’m truly touched and honored he’s willing to do that.”
After the game, Luton is planning on donating the shoes to the foundation.
Needless to say, Lewis will be rooting for the Jaguars on Sunday.
“Of course!,” said Lewis, who also voiced approval at the shoes’ design. “I’m Seahawks forever, but I have to support him, especially. His supporting us is a huge deal, we’ve already had a lot of people reach out to us from him bringing exposure. I started the foundation not even knowing what a nonprofit is all about, I grinded a lot of nights, so there were a lot of times when I questioned whether I was doing the right thing. But seeing the reaction to this has given me goosebumps.”