Bracelets honour friend’s memory, support mental health

Photo courtesy of Jack Riley / Special to Western News

Bracelets, in memory of Sam Baker and in support of mental wellness, are available through @sambakerlegacy on Instagram.

The bracelet, a rugby ball strung through with a blue paracord, bears the initials of Samuel James Baker.

It is an enduring memorial to Sam Baker, said his friend Sepand Mesgarzadeh, an Ivey Business student who designed it and is selling identical ones as a fundraiser for mental health.

Sam Baker

Sam Baker was a first-year Western student when he died in 2018.

“I was never so close to someone in a month-and-a-half of knowing them as I was to Sam. I think that’s a testament to his personality,” said Mesgarzadeh. “He was very kind to everyone he met, even if he didn’t know them.”

On Oct. 24, it will be two years since Baker ­– a gregarious first-year Western student in Arts & Humanities, and a son, brother, friend, teammate, rugby player, actor and sailor – died by suicide.

His parents, sister, brother and extended family will gather Saturday for a memorial ceremony to read Jewish prayers, share poems and scatter rose petals at the memorial stone marking Sam’s life.

His life left an indelible mark, and his death left an unfillable hole, in the lives of his family and friends.

“I don’t want him to be forgotten. People say they won’t forget about him but I just worry about that,” said Sam’s mother Dr. Ellie Morch.

Classmates, professors, teammates, childhood friends all relayed to the family the impact he had made on their lives.

The outpouring of memorial gifts in Sam’s honour led the family to establish legacy awards for outstanding highschoolers and give to crisis support centres and to the new Parr Centre for Thriving at Western.

Money raised from the bracelets will also support the Parr Centre, said Mesgarzadeh, who is now at Ivey Business School.

He and Sam had met through a Facebook group before they met in person during OWeek. Living in nearby residences and sharing two classes, they often walked to class and studied together.

When Sam died, Mesgarzadeh was among the hundreds devastated by his passing.

Sepand Mesgarzadeh

Ivey business student Sepand Mesgarzadeh

In April, he began working on the bracelets idea.

Now they are available for $10 through a dedicated Instagram page, with proceeds supporting the Parr Centre. Launched in August with support from Jeff and Shelley Parr, the centre is dedicated to developing proactive student mental health programs and support.

Only a few weeks into the fundraiser, and with Mesgarzadeh’s social media campaign not launching until early November, 200 of the first 500 bracelets have already sold.

For Sam’s family, the campaign is a reminder of the ripples of impact their son and brother had.

While they are gratified the bracelets support mental health, it’s equally important to them that the young man they remember as athletic, intelligent, charismatic, hardworking and wise continues to hold a place in others’ lives.

Morch and Mesgarzadeh met early this year and talked for hours about their memories “and how Sam made us laugh out loud,” Morch said.

“It’s really important to me not to forget him. That’s why I’m doing this, because he’s one of these special people who should not be forgotten. It’s to help remember him and to help other people going through what he did,” Mesgarzadeh said

***

Western reminds the campus community that counselling services and supports are available to assist faculty, students and staff. Visit the Health and Wellness website for more information.

***

Related:

New Parr Centre for Thriving at Western bolsters proactive support for student health, August 2020

Wellness director to bring Western to ‘leading edge’ of student supports, August 2018

Western mourns passing of first-year student, October 2018