‘Lost Boys’ dedicate memorial bench to their mentor Eli Ellis
It took over a year of advocacy but now the Lost Boys have a memorial bench at Sherwood forest in honor of their friend and mentor, Eli Ellis.
Eli was a leader for a group of young locals who call themselves the Lost Boys and are known to spend their time at Sherwood, a mostly dirt lot north of City Park, building jumps and riding bikes. Since their teenage years, when the group wasn’t at Sherwood, they were usually at Eli’s house.
After Eli died on Aug. 14, 2020, the Lost Boys and Eli’s family wanted to put up a memorial bench in Sherwood, so there would be a place to go for anyone who wants to feel close to him.
Ashley Ellis, Eli’s mom, approached Craig city officials about placing a bench in the city-owned park and was told there needed to be a formal process in place for memorial benches.
“It matters when you do the work,” Ashley said, explaining that she researched other municipalities that have memorial bench programs, compiled the language to establish the process and tried to remove all the barriers to make this happen.
The Lost Boys joined several City Council meetings where they advocated for the city to approve a memorial process to get a bench in place. Now a year later and just past Eli’s second posthumous birthday, the effort has come to fruition.
On Saturday, Nov. 12, the Lost Boys and Ashley gathered at Sherwood to hold a vigil for Eli and dedicate the new memorial bench in his name.
Two staff members from Open Heart Advocates, including Erik Plate, had a presence at the vigil in case anyone in the group needed someone to talk to. Everyone held lit candles and Ashley, whom the group affectionately refers to as “mom,” invited people to share happy stories about Eli and reflect on what he taught them.
“I hope wherever he is, he knows what a huge influence he had on other kids and people he met,” said Gayle Kendall, Eli’s step-grandma. “He touched a lot of those kids’ lives, and I hope they go on to do positive things in their lives because of it.”
Eli took his own life. And since his death, several members of the group have taken QPR, suicide prevention training to build awareness and peer support where it was lacking.
Ashley said that Eli had an impact on everyone he met, and after he died, many people showed up to bring food and say how Eli used to always stop and talk to them in the neighborhood.
“Even people who didn’t know him for as long remembered that the last time they saw him, he gave them a big hug,” Ashley said.
Several members of the group agreed that Eli gave the best hugs.
Another story Ashley remembered fondly was one time Eli and a friend borrowed her canoe to take to Elkhead Reservoir.
“They had that canoe so full of camping gear, I thought for sure it was going to sink,” Ashley said. “But they somehow paddled that boat all the way across the lake to camp for the night.”
Later, she described how since Eli’s death, when she was struggling, she’s started asking herself “what would Eli do”, borrowing from the phrase “what would Jesus do.” With the full understanding that Eli and Jesus aren’t quite the same.
“Because they aren’t the same thing,” Ashly said as the group laughed. “But it does help me.”
Recently, Ashley was having a rough day so she turned on some music and had a dance party in the kitchen because that’s what Eli would have done.
Ashley hopes the memorial bench will be a place for the Lost boys, Eli’s friends and family, or anyone who knew him to go when they are missing Eli.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, there is help available by calling Open Heart Advocates 24/7 Crisis Line 970-824-2000, the Colorado Crisis Line 1-844-493-TALK (8255), or the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or 988.
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