Tell us about Refuse to Sink:
Refuse to Sink is a nonprofit organization founded in 2020. The concept for Refuse to Sink (RTS) was realized in the sorrow of a mother’s heart after the traumatic loss of her son J.D. Moss to suicide on February 23rd, 2018. After J.D.’s death, his mother, Abby was moved to work towards initiating changes to the perceptions of suicide stigma and stigma related to mental health conditions in order to prevent more suffering.
On January 26th, 2019, Sgt. Max Vandhuynslager of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office took his life on duty in his assigned jurisdiction. As is most often the case in law enforcement suicide, Max showed no outward signs of suicidal crisis in the days preceding his death, highlighting a rarely discussed epidemic among 1st responder professions.
Surviving loved ones of both J.D. and Max became impassioned to raise awareness of mental health conditions, proactive treatment and suicide prevention by hosting educational awareness opportunities and providing free crisis services to individuals in rural heartland areas of Florida.
Does Refuse to Sink have a Mission/Vision?
We are called to a mission to create change by providing resources and education and by reducing the stigma of sufferers so that more might seek help before reaching the crisis point of no return. We base this understanding on a founding principal, that purpose for every life is revealed according to God’s plan and all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Tell us about your management team:
Suicide Loss Survivor and President Abby Moya Garcia is a native of Clewiston, Florida. Abby is a Registered Nurse and currently works as a Clinical Nurse Educator at Good Shephard hospice care. Abby is married to Alex Garcia and the couple reside in Lake placid. Abby has three children, J.D. Moss, Jude Moss, and Jaxon Moss and one granddaughter, who is 4yrs old. Abby attends Grace Bible Church where she is currently cofacilitating a support group for parents who have lost children.
Suicide Loss Survivor and Vice President Marci VanD’Huynslager, LMHC is a native of Clewiston, Florida and an FSU graduate with a BS in Criminology and a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Marci has been a sworn law enforcement officer in Florida and Georgia for 20 years, most recently serving as the Assistant Chief of Police for the City of Clewiston. Marci is now retired from law enforcement and works in mental health as a licensed provider. Marci is the widow of Sgt. Max Vandhuynslager and the couple share an 11-year-old daughter, Maci.
Secretary/Treasurer Traci Owens – Treasurer Traci Owens is from Belle Glade, Florida. She has worked in home health care field for eighteen years and has been employed with Empath Home Health for the past seven years. Traci is married to Mike her husband of 33 years, has two children and resides in Clewiston, Florida.
Administrative Support and Suicide Loss survivor – Marion Sullivan Primmer. Marion was born in Pahokee and grew up in South Bay, she graduated from Belle Glade High School. Marion graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management. She worked at South Bay Growers for 17 years and later was hired by Buddy Sizemore where she has been employed for 27 years as teacher and Technology Director.
We are also proud and honored to be joined by our Social Media specialist Brianne Davis. Brianne is a lifelong resident of Belle Glade. Brianne is the daughter of Jeff and Susie McMillian and is married to Cody Davis. The couple recently celebrated the birth of their son, Laken.
Why did you decide to join the Chamber?
Refuse to Sink has a goal of engaging with our heartland and lakeside communities to provide resources for services, education on mental health and wellness, and suicide prevention. We love our lakeside and heartland communities as they are home to each of us having provided many collective years of investments in our lives and families. Both J.D. and Max loved these communities too. Collectively we can’t think of a better way to honor their memories than by giving to others in such an important way with the same spirit of generosity and love for others that they each had.
Is there something special you would like to share about Refuse to Sink?
On September 11th, 2021, during National Suicide Prevention Week, Refuse to Sink held an inaugural memorial bass fishing tournament, hosted at Roland and Maryann’s Marina on Lake Okeechobee. The tournament was a success, and many volunteers and participants. We were touched and blessed by the showing, community support, and most of all God’s ability to work all things for His cause as we have witnessed at so many points in our journey’s. We learned that several volunteers who reached out to our organization did so with personal stories of suicide survivorship.
Name a “fun fact” about the business:
Refuse to Sink has reserved September 10, 2022 for this year’s bass fishing memorial tournament. We are excited to get back out on our lake and enjoy fellowship and community with our friends and family and supporters for this important cause!
Marci and Abby have been lifelong friends since the earliest days of childhood and in fact their parents all shared similar long histories of friendships extending back to their own childhoods. Marci and Abby estimate their families’ histories of friendship reach back through multiple generations.
Points to note:
Refuse to Sink endorses the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 that is available 24hrs a day if you or someone you know are struggling. Starting July 16th, 2022 dialing 988 will connect you nationwide to counselors with the lifeline ready to help.
Currently suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death of young people in America and the 10th leading cause of death for all persons in the US. Suicide is a 1st leading cause of death for 1st responders, second only to Covid in 2021.
Currently both firefighters and law enforcement officer suicide deaths outpace line of duty deaths annually since 2016.